Petrov: CoE legal experts conclude that Kosovo has significant deficiencies in the rule of law

Vladan Petrov
Source: Kosovo Online

Vladan Petrov, a professor at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade, a judge of the Constitutional Court, and a member of the Venice Commission, said for Kosovo Online that the report of legal experts from the Council of Europe on the compliance of Kosovo's legal system with CoE standards had indicated serious deficiencies in Kosovo regarding the fulfillment of key principles and standards of the CoE, namely democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Legal experts from the Council of Europe compiled the report as part of the procedure for considering Kosovo's application to become a member of the CoE, which was submitted on May 12, 2022. Petrov stated that this report was legal expertise and not a political document, emphasizing its objectivity and balance.

He says that, as a law professor, he believes that this document will be one of the key factors leading to the decision that Serbia considers the only correct one, namely that Kosovo cannot become a full member of the Council of Europe.

"In this report, especially in the conclusions, eminent legal experts specifically point out the following: there is indeed significant fear among the non-Albanian population, especially in the north of so-called Kosovo, insecurity, the involvement of special forces in regular activities that ordinary police should perform, and no cooperation with KFOR and other relevant institutions. It is also pointed out that the system of Kosovo does not respect some elementary principles of the rule of law, for example, the political authorities of the so-called Kosovo do not respect the decisions of their own courts, including the decisions of the Constitutional Court. It also mentions those related to the property of the Visoki Decani Monastery. This report clearly states this and makes a recommendation because legal experts cannot command; they can only state and recommend that the implementation of these decisions start as soon as possible," Petrov said.

He points out that one of the authors of the report, Thomas Markert, is a former director and secretary of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

"He is an excellent lawyer who dealt with the so-called dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. This is legal expertise, so it is not a political document, and precisely because of that, it has proven to be very objective and balanced. It has been shown that the so-called Kosovo, which last year submitted an application regarding the fulfillment of key principles and standards of the CoE, namely democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, shows serious deficiencies," Petrov added.

In his opinion, a crucial message from the report is the urgent need to establish the Community of Serb Municipalities, and the legal experts of the Council of Europe, as he emphasized, had clearly demonstrated their attitude towards Kosovo by using an asterisk in its name in the report, "clearly indicating that they consider it an entity, not a state."

"This report is in our favor and shows what I, as a law professor, have been saying for years. Kosovo is an entity on artificial life support. Certain international factors are providing this artificial life support, but internally, Kosovo is an entity that does not fulfill, in a substantive sense, the basic tenets of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. What should be done next? This report needs to be carefully analyzed because all such reports must be read carefully from multiple perspectives. Care must be taken with every word, even the arrangement of the key recommendations given in the final part. But, in principle, when all of this is carefully analyzed, we should continue with the policy we consistently pursue, which is the policy of insisting on fulfilling the obligations of the First Brussels Agreement. After that, the elementary conditions for further negotiations will be created. It is good that such a respectable institution as the Council of Europe, which is not a political institution, has assessed the situation in Kosovo and Metohija in this way and thereby justified Serbia's right to first and foremost organize the lives of Serbs and non-Albanians in Kosovo, which is currently not at the level of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy," Petrov emphasized.

Regarding the notation by legal experts that the Kosovo authorities favor the swift and strong use of special forces even if there is a significant risk that the use of force will lead to massive violence and bloodshed, Petrov stated that it was unacceptable.

"As soon as you use special forces for regular activities, maintaining public order, it means that the authorities in that territory are applying brute force to something that absolutely should not be done. We have an irregular situation that is absolutely contrary to the basic and elementary principles of the security and normal life of all people in the so-called Kosovo. Thus, the situation in Kosovo, not only for Serbs but primarily for Serbs in northern Kosovo, becomes truly unbearable. This is an expression used by legal experts in the report," Petrov noted.

Petrov believes that the views of CoE legal experts should be a key guideline in deciding on Kosovo's request to become a member of the CoE.

"As a law professor, I can only express the belief that this legal report will significantly influence the final decision-making. I believe that it will be one of the key factors leading to the decision that we consider the only correct one, namely that the entity of Kosovo cannot become a full member of the Council of Europe," Petrov concluded.