European Western Balkans

Key findings of the 2022 European Commission Report on Kosovo

Photo: EU Office in Kosovo

BRUSSELS – European Commission has published the 2022 country reports for the six Western Balkans states and Turkey. Here we present the key findings in the country report on Kosovo.

The fundamentals of the accession process

The reporting period overlapped with the first full year in office of the Vetëvendosje-led government. Kosovo enjoyed political stability, with the government holding a solid majority in the Assembly.

The Assembly’s work continued to be negatively affected by a polarised political atmosphere and difficulties in achieving decision-making quorum, even though the government relies on a strong majority. This is partly due to poor management of the legislative agenda on the part of the majority but also because opposition members of the Assembly (MPs) abstained from voting to prevent legislation from being adopted.

The 2021 municipal elections were overall well-organised, transparent and competitive. Kosovo’s electoral process still needs comprehensive strengthening to address long-standing weaknesses throughout the electoral cycle, as identified in successive EU election observation missions since 2014.

The situation in the north of Kosovo remains challenging, in particular in terms of corruption, organised crime, and the conditions for freedom of expression.

There is some level of preparation in the area of public administrationreform, but limited progress was made in this area. Notably, some key positive steps were taken by developing overarching strategies on public administration reform (PAR) and public finance management (PFM) for 2022-2026, adopting legislation to proceed with the first wave of streamlining of public agencies and launching the development of a new salary law. There has been little progress in implementing the existing legislative framework for public administration reform.

Kosovo is still at an early stage in developing a well-functioning judicial system. While some progress was made, the overall administration of justice continues to be slow, inefficient and vulnerable to undue influence. Steps were taken to start implementing the rule of law strategy and action plan and to reform the legislative framework governing the prosecutorial system by amending the Law on the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council. Justice reform should be addressed first and foremost by improving the implementation of existing tools to safeguard the integrity, the independence and the efficiency of the judicial system. The government’s commitment to fully implement the Venice Commission’s Opinion on the concept document on vetting of judges and prosecutors, in close cooperation with the EU, is welcome.

Kosovo is at an early stage / has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption. During the reporting period, some progress was made with the adoption of significant anti-corruption legislation. There is a need to improve the implementation of the overall legal framework. Sustained efforts are needed to achieve more proactive investigations, final court decisions and final confiscation of assets. Despite the efforts already made, there is a need for strong political will to continue to effectively address systemic corruption risks and a robust criminal justice response to high-level corruption.

Kosovo is at an early stage in the fight against organised crime and limited progress was made in investigating and prosecuting organised crime cases. The powerful tools envisaged by the Criminal Code and the Law on Extended Powers of Confiscation are not yet fully utilised. A number of successful operations targeting organised crime took place, involving international and cross-border cooperation. Fighting organised crime in the north of Kosovo continues to be challenging.

Some progress was made in the fight against terrorism and the fight against and prevention of violent extremism, in line with the objectives set out in the EU-Kosovo implementing arrangement for the Joint Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism for the Western Balkans. The Kosovo authorities need to be more effective in their efforts to combat money laundering and the applicable law should be brought in line with the EU acquis and international standards. The legal framework broadly guarantees the protection of human and fundamental rights in line with European standards. Kosovo showed commitment to addressing gender inequality. 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, and to advance the protection of cultural heritage. The lack of administrative instructions to implement the law on child protection hampers further progress in this area. As regards freedom of expression, Kosovo has some level of preparation and benefits from a pluralistic and lively media environment. However, concerns remain regarding public smear campaigns, threats and physical attacks on journalists. The lack of financial self-sustainability leaves the media, including the public broadcaster, vulnerable to political and business interests.

The Kosovo authorities continued to make progress in managing migration. Migration governance and asylum should be further strengthened.

Kosovo made some progress on the economic criteria, and is at an early stage of developing a functioning market economy. The economy demonstrated resilience during the pandemic. Nevertheless, long-standing structural challenges, such as the widespread informal economy, the high prevalence of corruption and the overall weak rule of law, continue to hinder the private sector.

While the fiscal rule has been suspended since 2020, the economic recovery as well as formalisation gains led to a strong increase in tax revenue and a low public deficit in 2021. Driven by surging commodity prices, inflation increased substantially. The financial sector remained stable, and lending continued to expand. Despite strong political opposition, the government took fiscally prudent positions regarding war veterans’ pensions and the Kosovo Pension Savings Trust.

Kosovo made limited progress and is at an early stage in terms of ability to cope with competitive pressure and market forces in the EU. Little progress was made on improving the quality of education and addressing skill gaps in the labour market. Kosovo made some
progress in improving road infrastructure and increasing investment in renewables, but the coal-based, outdated and unreliable energy supply remains a concern. Kosovo still lacks a long-term energy strategy. Kosovo made some progress in digitalising the economy.

As regards good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation, Kosovo continued to participate in most regional fora. Kosovo maintained overall good relations with Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia. There has been no change in Kosovo’s formal relations
with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which does not recognise Kosovo’s independence and the two maintain a strict visa regime.

The EU-facilitated Dialogue on the normalisation of relations with Serbia continued with regular monthly meetings on the level of Chief Negotiators and a High-level meeting on 18 August 2022. The Parties adopted an Energy Agreements’ Implementation Roadmap in June 2022 and agreed on travel with only identity cards between Kosovo and Serbia in August 2022. Kosovo needs to engage more constructively and make further substantial efforts on the implementation of all past agreements and contribute to reaching a comprehensive legally binding normalisation agreement with Serbia. Such an agreement is urgent and crucial to enable Kosovo and Serbia to advance on their respective European paths.

During the reporting period some progress was made in aligning with European standards in the area of statistics and financial control, while limited progress was achieved in aligning with European standards in the areas of public procurement. In most of the areas related to the internal market, Kosovo has some level of preparation, including on competition. During the reporting period, Kosovo made some progress in all areas, except on consumer policy and health protection, where only limited progress was made.

Kosovo made some progress in the areas of competitiveness and inclusive growth (customs, taxation, economic and monetary policy, digital transformation and media, enterprise and industrial policy, social policy and employment, education and culture) and limited progress in the area of research.

On the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans and sustainable connectivity, Kosovo made some progress in the area of transport and limited progress in the areas of energy, environment and climate change. In the field of resources and agriculture, Kosovo made some progress on food safety, veterinary policy and phytosanitary policy, but only limited progress on agriculture.

On external relations and trade policy, Kosovo made limited progress during the reporting period and is at an early stage of preparation. Kosovo has not yet ratified the Central European Free Trade Agreement’s additional protocols on trade facilitation and trade in services. Kosovo introduced export restrictions on a number of agricultural food products without justifications or prior consultation with the Commission.

Overall, Kosovo needs to improve its administrative capacity and coordination, across all sectors, to achieve effective implementation of the EU acquis.

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