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Between Rhetoric and Practice: Local Ownership and the Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo

In June 2016, the EU extended the mandate of the Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) until June 2018. While the fate of the mission after that date is still uncertain, the coming end of the current mandate provides an excellent opportunity to take stock of a decade long and over a billion € worth of EU investment in Kosovo’s rule of law. Despite limited achievements, the mission has struggled to make a substantial improvement to the Kosovo’s rule of law, and has not met the expectation to bring to justice key perpetrators of war crimes and corruption. This policy brief shows that an important but often overlooked impediment to the impact of EULEX has been the gap between EU’s rhetoric and practice of local ownership. In the policy discourse, the EU construes ownership as a broad and inclusive negotiation and compromise building. In practice, lacking trust in local institutions and overly concerned for short term stability, EULEX has either disregarded the local ownership principle altogether, or at best practiced it as an outside-in and elite-centred transfer of responsibility for externally devised objectives. The rhetoric/practice gap on local ownership severely undermined the local legitimacy of EULEX and debilitated its long-term impact.

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