Top Blair Official Helps Brush Up Kosovo’s Image

Alastair Campbell, a key figure in the Labour government that took Britain into conflict with Serbia over Kosovo, is in Pristina helping the fledgeling state improve its communications.

The British government has committed more than £100,000 to a joint project aimed at boosting the image of Kosovo, whose prime minister, Hashim Thaci, is currently at the centre of an international investigation into organ trafficking allegations.

The campaign’s budget for this year is £251,000, with £125,500 being provided by the British Embassy in Kosovo and the other half coming from Kosovo’s foreign ministry.

Alistair Campbell, former communications director to Tony Blair, has been appointed to help run the campaign and is presently in the capital of Kosovo, Pristina, where he will deliver a workshop on strategic communications.

The campaign is being managed by the British Council in Kosovo and comes at a crucial point for the country, which broke away from Serbia after a bloody conflict in 1999, declared independence in 2008 and is working towards gaining membership in the European Union.

Last month a prosecutor was appointed to lead an international investigation into allegations of organ trafficking by the Kosovo Liberation Army in northern Albania. The probe, led by American John Clint Williamson, will examine the Council of Europe’s 2010 report, compiled by Swiss senator Dick Marty, which alleged that a criminal network with links to Thaci executed kidnapped civilians and sold their organs after the 1999 Kosovo war.

This report corroborated allegations raised in an earlier 2009 investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and other media agencies. Thaci has denied the allegations and pledged to work with investigators.

According to information from the British Council, the project will work on changing public opinions through public diplomacy tools. It will aim to increase the central capacities of the Foreign Ministry in Kosovo and the Kosovo Government towards more strategic communication and improve perception of dialogue in Kosovo.