Local Contestation Against European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX)

Ewa Mahr

This paper covers the reasons behind the local contestation against EU civilian rule of law missions in the countries of their deployment. Using the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) as a case study, it demonstrates how normative aspects, embedded values and effectiveness of EU missions are perceived and reflected back to the EU by their recipients. In particular, it investigates how local contestation against EULEX is triggered both by the EU's two opposing principles of conflict management and of democratic state-building as well as by EULEX's operational difficulties. Local contestation is understood as active opposition to the mission by local actors, who make public claims for change in its mandate and/or its operations. The paper claims that local contestation is mainly fuelled by (1) Westphalian understanding of sovereignty by parts of society and their perception of its violation by EULEX; and (2) dissatisfaction with EULEX's effectiveness, originating in a) unrealistic local expectations concerning EULEX's mandate, combined with b) perceived deficiencies in EULEX's performance and c) lack of understanding of the local conditions by EULEX, leading to insufficient local ownership. By addressing the mission from the perspective of the local actors the paper underlines the limitations of EU policies in the post-conflict countries, which attempt to simultaneously incorporate two conflicting principles. While the conflict management is rooted in a still prominent security paradigm, the democratic state-building necessitates a prominent local role in the decision-making process and the alignment of the missions' objectives with those of the local population.

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