Key findings of the 2018 European Commission Report on Kosovo

Photo: AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu via Tanjug

BRUSSELS – The European Commission published today the country reports for the six Western Balkans states and Turkey. Here we present the key findings in the country report on Kosovo.

Political criteria

Kosovo held early elections in June 2017. A new Assembly and government took office in September. So far, however, the new ruling coalition has had limited success in bringing forward EU related reforms and building consensus on key strategic issues for Kosovo. The continuing political fragmentation and polarisation have adversely affected the role of the Assembly and have impacted the effectiveness of the government. Unacceptable actions by a number of parliamentarians during the reporting period, such as the use of teargas, have disrupted parliamentary proceedings. However, the ratification of the border/boundary demarcation agreement with Montenegro in March 2018 was an important breakthrough.

Parliamentary and municipal elections, held in 2017, were generally competitive and well‑administered in most places in Kosovo. However, patterns of intimidation within many Kosovo Serb communities, targeting particularly candidates not belonging to the Srpska Lista party, raised concerns. The investigation of the murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović in January 2018 continues.

Attempts by members of the Kosovo Assembly in December 2017 to abrogate the Law on Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office have raised serious concerns. It will be essential for Kosovo to fully comply with its international obligations regarding the Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office and show full and unequivocal commitment to these institutions.

There is some level of preparation in the area of public administration reformSome progress has been made especially with the review of agencies and (semi)independent bodies. The continued politicisation of the public administration remains a concern, and adversely affects the efficiency and professional independence of the public administration.

Kosovo’s judicial system is at an early stage. Some progress has been achieved in implementing the 2015 justice package laws. The integration of Kosovo Serb judges and prosecutors and their support staff across Kosovo into the Kosovo judicial system was a big achievement of 2017. The judiciary is still vulnerable to undue political influence and rule of law institutions need sustained efforts to build up their capacities. The administration of justice remains slow and inefficient.

Kosovo is at an early stage/has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption. Kosovo has made some progress as regards the track record on the investigation and prosecution for high level corruption and organised crime cases, including final convictions. Progress was also made on preliminary confiscation of assets although final confiscations remain low. Corruption is widespread and remains an issue of concern. Concerted efforts are needed to tackle this problem in a comprehensive and strategic manner.

Kosovo is at an early stage in the fight against organised crime. Some progress was made with the track record on high level corruption and organised crime cases. While there is more preliminary confiscation of assets, there are still few final convictions, financial investigations and final confiscations of assets. Law enforcement agencies struggle to effectively fight organised crime in the north of Kosovo. Some progress was made in the fight against terrorism, including through measures to tackle violent extremism and radicalisation and in preventing citizens from joining conflicts abroad. Kosovo authorities need to be more effective in their efforts to fight money laundering and the relevant law should be brought in line with EU acquis and international standards.

The legal framework broadly guarantees the protection of human and fundamental rights in line with European standards. However, additional efforts are needed regarding enforcement. Implementation of human rights strategies and legislation is often undermined by inadequate financial and other resources, particularly at local level, limited political prioritisation and lack of coordination. More needs to be done to effectively guarantee the rights of persons belonging to minorities, including Roma and Ashkali and displaced persons, to ensure gender equality in practice, to set up an integrated child protection system and to advance the protection of cultural heritage. Kosovo has some level of preparation in the area of freedom of expression and there has been no progress during the reporting period. Freedom of expression is enshrined in the constitution and Kosovo benefits from a pluralistic and lively media environment. However, threats and attacks against journalists have continued. The Assembly showed limited commitment to finding a solution for sustainable funding of the public broadcaster, leaving it vulnerable to political pressure.

Authorities have made progress in managing regular and irregular migration. Further efforts are needed.

Economic criteria

Kosovo has made good progress and is at an early stage of developing a functioning market economy. The business environment has improved and the government adhered to the fiscal rule on budget deficit; however, war veterans’ benefits continue to pose a challenge for public finances. The informal economy remains widespread. The increase in the labour force participation rate was not matched by gains in employment so the unemployment rate increased further. It particularly affected women and young and unskilled workers. Despite strong export growth the high trade deficit reflects a weak production base.

EU legislation

Kosovo has made some progress and is at an early stage in terms of capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the EU. No progress was made on improving the quality of education and addressing skills gaps in the labour market. Kosovo made some progress in improving road infrastructure but large infrastructure gaps in the railway and energy sectors remain. Structural changes in the economy are slow as it remains reliant on the retail trade sector. Integration with the EU is hampered by the slow implementation of the SAA.

Kosovo continued its efforts to maintain good and constructive bilateral relations with other enlargement countries. Kosovo is represented in most regional organisationsthat fall within the scope of the Arrangements on Regional Representation and Cooperation agreed between Belgrade and Pristina in 2012.

Regarding the normalisation of relations with Serbia, Kosovo has remained engaged in the dialogue. However, Kosovo needs to make further efforts and contribute to the establishment of circumstances conducive to the full normalisation of relations with Serbia.

As regards alignment with European standards, Kosovo is at an early stage. Legislative alignment has continued in some areas but implementation is weak. Some progress was made in the area of free movement of goods and services, public procurement and competition as well as in improving the business environment. In the area of taxation and customs, some progress was also made in collecting revenue and simplifying administrative procedures, but Kosovo should step up the fight against the informal economy and tax evasion. The energy sector continues to face serious challenges. No progress has been achieved to address environmental issues.