European Western Balkans

Will Kurti bring changes in the fight against corruption in Kosovo?

Vjosa Osmani and Albin Kurti; Photo: Twitter / albinkurti

Albin Kurti’s victory in the parliamentary elections in Kosovo came after the promises to focus on social policies aimed at citizens, which implies a social and anti-corruption agenda. The reforms so far, especially in the fight against corruption, have not been successful, and political instability is cited as one of the reasons.

The question arose whether the new government, which is projected to be stable, will be able to lead to more serious steps and progress in implementing reforms and fighting corruption.

However, Milica Andrić Rakić, project manager of the New Social Initiative based in North Mitrovica, said that Kosovo did very poorly in implementing reforms and the fight against corruption so far.

“Corruption, i.e. a large number of acquittals in corruption cases, is an argument that European countries such as France and the Netherlands continue to use as an argument against granting visa liberalization to Kosovo”, Andrić Rakić pointed out.

She added that according to the Kosovo Law Institute, there are 14 deputies in the new Assembly of Kosovo against whom charges have been filed, and the new Minister of Health is under investigation for abuse of office.

Kosovo is stagnating in terms of Corruption Perception Index results

Since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, corruption remained a major obstacle for Kosovo’s proclaimed democracy. As EWB wrote earlier, for the third year in a row, Kosovo is stagnating in terms of Corruption Perception Index results, published by the Transparency International. In 2018, 36 points were enough for 95th place, while in 2020 Kosovo is on the 104th place.

In 2019 Transparency International expressed hope that the new Government at that time, led by Albin Kurti, leader of Self-Determination Movement (VV) could bring necessary changes when it comes to the fight against corruption and to break-away from the practice of political appointments in the administration. Anyway, Kurti spent only 58 days as the Prime-Minister of Kosovo and did not have enough time to conduct serious reforms.

Read more: Transparency International: Corruption is on the rise in the Western Balkans

The rule of Kurti’s successor Avdullah Hoti was marked with many scandals, including abolishment of anti-corruption police task force.

Andrić Rakić says that the European Parliament has confirmed that the reforms so far have not been implemented fast enough, and perhaps the most concrete proof of that is the fact that Kosovo lost 7.5 million euros from IPA funds at the end of 2020 due to lack of progress in public administration reform.

“According to the findings of the European Policy Institute of Kosovo, Kosovo has since met only 8 of the 23 set goals”, Andrić Rakić highlighted.

Is the new government an opportunity for change?

However, the new government is predicted to have a full mandate, which raises hopes of opportunity for progress in the field of the fight against corruption and implementation of reforms. The Self-Determination Movement’s anti-corruption reform program is based on vetting of law enforcement bodies and an anti-mafia law.

Andrić Rakić said that she believes that it is possible for the new Kosovo government to be more efficient in both reforms and the fight against corruption.

“There is mostly new staff who previously did not have the opportunity to prove themselves in the executive branch of government or were in those roles for a very short time in Kurti’s government last year”, explained Andrić Rakić and added that there are also two ministers and non-partisan personalities in Kurti’s cabinet.

She highlighted that there is new energy and they seem to have a desire to prove themselves.

“However, the fact that they are new to these functions and ‘unspent’ also means that they do not have experience in running institutions, which can prove to be bad due to the expectations of citizens who are already exaggerated”, Andrić Rakić stressed.

She highlighted that for years, Kurti and his Self-Determination Movement (LVV) have been creating political standards of justice, efficiency and honesty from the opposition that have been unthinkable in Kosovo so far, and now they must show that they are capable of reaching those standards themselves.

What are the promises?

As Andrić Rakić previously stated in the EWB’s show “Screening”, Kurti has announced really serious changes in the whole way in which Kosovo is organized.

“For example, he announced the health insurance fund, which would be a great novelty for Kosovo. Then there are additional benefits for mothers, an increase in income for mothers and a whole series of social schemes – which is the orientation of this party, but that can have significant implications for the Kosovo budget and that will really need serious work to implement”, she explained.

When it comes to the internal politics, big changes are announced as well, says Andrić Rakić.

“Also, the Self-Determination movement has been criticizing all Kosovo authorities for years because of the way they conduct foreign policy, so there will probably be at least attempts to change that as well. What was Kosovo’s main foreign policy goal was dialogue with Serbia”, Andrić Rakić pointed out.

The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue – a priority or a necessity?

During his victory speech on February 14, Kurti stated that the dialogue would not be his priority.

As Donika Emini, Executive Director of the CiviKos Platform and member of Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), stated earlier for EWB, there are no expectations whatsoever in relation to how Kurti will approach this process.

“So far, Kurti has shown dedication to reform and restructure the country internally without offering a detailed proposal on how he plans to manage one of the most pressing issues – the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. The expectation of the Kosovo citizens so far is that Kurti will work proactively to build a process that is transparent and based on values and principles”, said Emini adding that the expectations are for Kurti not to approach this process the same way as the old ruling elite.

However, Srđan Cvijić, Senior Analyst at the Open Society European Policy Institute in Brussels and member of BiEPAG pointed out earlier for EWB that he understood Albin Kurti’s statement that dialogue was no longer a priority as an intention to focus on domestic political issues, the fight against crime and corruption, which is important for Kosovo.

It remains to be seen whether Kurti will be able to successfully implement reforms and anti-corrupting agenda, while having to lead the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on the other side. However, with a new government expected to last a full life-span, experts point out that the chances of progress are high.

This article was published as part of the project “Civil society for good governance and anti-corruption in southeast Europe: Capacity building for monitoring, advocacy and awareness-raising (SELDI)” funded by the European Union.

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