The polarisation between government and opposition continued. Normal parliamentary functioning was prevented for parts of the reporting period, including through the use of violent means by opposition members. All political parties should show responsibility and re-engage in a constructive dialogue, with parliament as the key forum for political debate. The recent return of opposition members to parliamentary activities is a welcome step.
Kosovo institutions fulfilled the remaining obligations on the establishment of the Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecution Office to investigate allegations of international crimes committed during and after the 1999 conflict. The procedures on the bilateral agreement with the host country of the Specialist Chambers (the Netherlands) were finalised. In June 2016, the mandate of EULEX was extended until June 2018.
The assembly completed most of the outstanding appointments to independent institutions and agencies. However, appointments were often subject to political influence. This undermines the independent functioning and effective management of these bodies. Greater efforts are needed to ensure that appointments are based on merit.
There is some level of preparation in the area of public administration reform. Good progress included the adoption of a comprehensive public financial management strategy and of the law on general administrative procedures. The continued politicisation of the public administration, however, remains a serious concern. The organisation of the state administration is fragmented and does not ensure effective lines of accountability, and the overlap of responsibilities of government agencies needs to be addressed. Parliamentary oversight of government activities should increase. The recommendations of oversight institutions should be followed, to ensure improved governance and accountability.
Kosovo's judicial system is at an early stage. Important positive steps have been taken during the reporting period with the adoption of amendments to the constitution and most secondary legislation necessary to implement the 2015 justice package laws. Kosovo has also appointed most members of key institutions and continued to increase its clearance rate of cases. However, administration of justice is slow and inefficient, and there is insufficient accountability of judicial officials. The judiciary is still vulnerable to undue political influence and rule of law institutions suffer from lack of funding and human resources.
Kosovo is at an early stage/has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption. Kosovo has strengthened its institutional capacities to fight corruption and organised crime, with the establishment of a multi-disciplinary investigative team, the set-up of a tracking mechanism for high level corruption and organised crime cases, as well as the fostering of serious crime department of basic courts. This has led to an increased number of high-level cases being investigated and prosecuted. However, corruption remains prevalent in many areas and continues to be a very serious problem. Efforts must continue accompanied by a strong political will to tackle this in a comprehensive manner.
Kosovo is at an early stage in the fight against organised crime. The number of investigations and final convictions remains low. Gaps in the legislation remain and enforcement needs to be improved in particular for money laundering, confiscation and seizure of assets, and financial investigation. Undue influence over investigations and the lack of strategic political commitment hamper the fight against organised crime. Kosovo continued its efforts to fight terrorism, but still faces challenges in this area.
Some progress was made in the area of human rights, with steps taken to implement the 2015 package of human rights laws and declarations of support for the rights of LGBTI persons. However, implementation continues to be hindered by a lack of resources and political commitment, in particular at local level. More needs to be done to effectively guarantee property rights and address the issues of return and reintegration of displaced persons, protection of cultural heritage and against gender-based violence. The protection of the rights of persons belonging to minorities and persons with disabilities need to be significantly strengthened.
Kosovo has some level of preparation in the area of freedom of expression. There have been worrying developments during the reporting period, including a number of threats against journalists. The assembly shows limited commitment to finding a solution for sustainable funding of the public broadcaster, leaving it vulnerable to political pressure. There were no legislative developments on the regulation of media ownership and transparency.
Regarding the normalisation of relations with Serbia, Kosovo remained committed to the implementation of the agreements reached in the EU-facilitated dialogue. Progress was limited, also due to the electoral process in Serbia and the domestic situation in Kosovo. However, momentum was regained in August 2016 with the start of the work on the Mitrovica/Mitrovicë bridge and freedom of movement. Continued efforts are needed to implement the agreements already reached. The steps taken should have a positive and concrete impact on the everyday life of citizens in both Kosovo and Serbia.
Kosovo is at an early stage in developing a functioning market economy. Some progress was made, particularly on supporting export-oriented businesses, improving contract enforcement, especially within the financial sector, and access to finance. However, the fiscally unsustainable decisions related to war-veterans' benefits may have a negative effect on the macroeconomic stability of Kosovo and its relations with international financial institutions. The persistent trade deficit reflects a weak production base and poor international competitiveness. Reliance on remittances and the widespread informal economy additionally decrease employment incentives, resulting in low labour force participation, especially among women, and high unemployment rates, in particular among young and unskilled workers.
Kosovo is at an early stage in building the capacity to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union. No progress was made on improving the quality of education, which is a key driver for improving long-term growth and competitiveness.
Kosovo is at an early stage of alignment with European standards. Legislative alignment has continued in some areas but implementation is weak. Some progress was made in the area of public procurement and competition. Good progress was made in the area of customs, especially in fighting corruption, collecting revenue and reducing the administrative costs of exports, but Kosovo should step up the fight against the informal economy and tax evasion. The energy sector continues to face problems, with no progress having been made on decommissioning the Kosovo A power plant or refurbishing Kosovo B, and very little progress made on renewable energy.
June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit; the EU perspective for the Western Balkans is confirmed
February 2008: Kosovo unilaterally declares independence
July 2010: The International Court of Justice concludes that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate general international law or Security Council Resolution 1244/99
September 2010: The UN General Assembly adopts a resolution tabled by Serbia and co-sponsored by all EU Member States acknowledging the content of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and welcoming the readiness of the European Union to facilitate a process of dialogue between the parties
March 2011: The EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade is launched
January 2012: The visa liberalisation dialogue is launched
October 2012: Feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo is issued
April 2013: The First agreement of principles governing normalisation of relations is reached in the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo
October 2013 – May 2014: Negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement
April 2016: The Stabilisation and Association Agreement enters into force
May 2016: The European Commission issues a proposal to the European Parliament and Council recommending visa liberalisation for Kosovo