European Parliament. Photo: Denis Sllovinja/ BIRN

EU Report Offers Mixed Assessment of Kurti Government’s Efforts

The European Commission’s annual report on Kosovo’s progress towards membership said some achievements have been made despite a polarised political atmosphere, but more effort is needed on public administration reform, the environment and tackling organized crime.

Kosovo has enjoyed political stability over the past year, with the government holding a solid majority in the Assembly, but the legislature’s work continued to be negatively affected by a polarized political atmosphere and difficulties in achieving a quorum, said the European Commission’s annual progress report on the country, published on Wednesday.

The situation in the north of Kosovo remains challenging, in particular in terms of corruption, organized crime and the situation for freedom of expression, the report said.

It repeated the Commission’s longstanding criticism about the need for more reform of the public administration, saying that limited progress has been made.

When the EU ambassador to Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog, formally handed over the report in Prishtina, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said that his government had made reforms previously recommended by the Commission.

“The report congratulates Kosovo for stability and political sustainability. Stability is a pre-condition for long-term reforms. Therefore, during this year we have undertaken reforms which have been recommended by EU for a long time but were ignored by previous governments,” Kurti said.

Demush Shasha, head of the EPIK Institute think-tank, noted at least some positives in the report.

“For the first time in history the report has not reported the ‘politicization’ of independent institutions and civil servants as a finding,” Shasha wrote on Facebook. 

The Commission’s report urged Kosovo should strive to reach a normalization deal with Serbia, engage more constructively and make further efforts to implement past agreements with the Belgrade authorities.

The Commission said it sees a normalization deal as crucial to enable Kosovo and Serbia go further along their respective European paths.

It also said that some progress was made in the judicial system, but the overall administration of justice continues to be “slow, inefficient and vulnerable to undue influence”.

Kurti’s government has set vetting of judicial officials as a priority.

But unlike last year’s report from the Commission, which said the vetting process was seen as “a source of serious concern”, this year’s report welcomes it, mostly because the government has committed to fully implement the views of the Venice Commission, Shasha claimed. 

The progress report said that sustained efforts are needed to achieve more proactive investigations, final court decisions and final confiscations of assets. 

Despite efforts already made, the report said that there is a need for strong political will to continue to address corruption risks and a criminal justice response to high-level corruption. 

Limited progress was made in fighting organized crime as well, it added. According to the report, fighting organized crime in the north of Kosovo continues to be a challenge.

The report also stated that Kosovo also made some progress in digitalising the economy.

In the field of education, the report said that little progress was made on improving the quality of education and addressing skill gaps in the labour market. 

As regards freedom of expression, the Commission said that Kosovo benefits from a pluralistic and lively media environment. However, concerns remain about public smear campaigns, threats and physical attacks on journalists. 

The report added that a lack of financial self-sustainability leaves the media, including the public broadcaster, vulnerable to political and business interests. 

Shasha noted that the report offered a mixed opinion of public broadcaster RTK: “For the first time, RTK is now suspected of [being subject to] political influence, but on the contrary, there is high evaluation of the transparency and professional appointing of the new board of directors,” he said. 

Kosovo made some progress in improving road infrastructure and increasing investment in renewables, although limited progress in the areas of energy, environment and climate change, the report said.

About 95 per cent of electricity in Kosovo is produced by coal-fired power plants, and greener alternatives are still far from functional.

The progress report is the annual evaluation document that the EU produces for countries who want to join the bloc. The report scrutinizes each country’s overall economic, political and social progress and fitness for eventual membership.

The Commission publishes progress reports once a year for the six countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey.

13/10/2022 - 16:51

13 October 2022 - 16:51

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