It is an unusual deal: in an effort to decongest the country’s prisons, the Danish government has agreed to rent 300 prison cells in Kosovo for the next ten years. In return, Denmark is willing to offer a generous financial assistance of a total of 210 million euros.
The Kosovo government says it will use the money to modernize the judiciary, but also to finance investments in renewable energy sources, as today energy production is mainly based on lignite.
As Eris Hanna, an adviser at the Kosovo Ministry of Justice and a member of the delegation that negotiated the Copenhagen agreement, explains, “this is a broader agreement, not just the transfer of detainees from Denmark. “The funds for the green agenda and renewable energy sources reach 60 million euros and this is very good news at a time when energy prices are constantly rising.”
“Same specifications as in Denmark”
But for the Danish government, renting prisons abroad is part of a broader strategy, which also envisions the construction of new penitentiaries for an additional 1,000 inmates by 2025.
According to Justice Minister Nick Hekerup, migrants from third countries to be deported will be sent to Kosovo, as their asylum application in Denmark has been rejected.
Hekerup assures that in Kosovo rented cells “the same rules will apply as in Denmark”.
In addition, he is optimistic that the bilateral agreement with Kosovo is in line with international law and will not be annulled following a possible appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Danes cite a recent survey, which they say shows Kosovo has the best infrastructure to receive detainees in the region. A similar agreement was concluded in 2015, for three years, by Norway with the Netherlands.
According to official figures provided by the Pristina government, prisons across Kosovo can “accommodate” up to 2,000 people, but currently 400 cells remain empty.
“One of the biggest benefits is that Denmark is becoming our strategic partner and one of the largest financiers in Kosovo,” said Justice Adviser Eris Hanna.
According to the plan so far, the migrants that will be sent by Denmark will be placed in the prisons of the city of Gilan, 50 kilometers southeast of Pristina.
“We do not have the resources to deal with the situation”
However, not everyone seems optimistic that this unusual agreement will succeed. Fatmira Haliti, who works with the NGO for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, notes that living conditions in prisons have improved recently, but that “Kosovo still does not have the resources to support its own.” prisoners, let alone to receive even more from abroad. “If another 300 people do come, the current infrastructure is not enough.”
Giannis Papadimitriou (AP)