While issues related to Kosovo’s neighbors have been the trigger for this and past elections, on the ground the country requires hard work and practical solutions to cure its many domestic ills.
Why are we having yet another early election in Kosovo?
Back in May 2017, members of the PDK-LDK governing coalition dismissed themselves after less than three years of governance, as there was seemingly no other way to pass the controversial demarcation agreement with Montenegro through the Kosovo Assembly.
As citizens, we were promised that by passing the demarcation agreement, our European path would open up and we would move freely in the Schengen zone.
Elections were held. The demarcation agreement was passed. The path was not opened.
Kosovar citizens did not get visa-free travel. In fact, there is more bureaucracy to get a Schengen visa now than there was two years ago when the demarcation agreement was passed.
Two years later, the government that followed, the PAN coalition (made up of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK and Nisma) which governed from 2017 to 2019, primarily discharged itself due to pressure over the increased tariff imposed on Serbian goods entering Kosovo, and not the reasons presented to the public.
Kosovars are now being promised that if the tariff is removed, Kosovo’s path to ‘prosperity’ will be opened again. This is not likely to happen, even if we get rid of the tariff. Our country’s priorities are of a different nature. There is no quick fix or magic solution to Kosovo’s ills.
Our path to Europe will open up when habitation in Kosovo is more European – with clean drinking water and a functioning sewage system available to all citizens at the very least. In 21st century Europe, we live in a country where around 25 per cent of the population does not yet have access to clean drinking water, while about 45 per cent of the population has no functional sewage system.
This is why the dialogue with Serbia is not at the top of the agenda for Kosovo’s ordinary citizens, and neither is the tariff. In a survey conducted by the National Democratic Institute, NDI, in March 2019, less than 10 percent of citizens listed the dialogue with Serbia as a priority.
In fact, the more time politicians have spent signing agreements with Serbia, the more people have left Kosovo for a better life elsewhere. Kosovo has signed over 20 agreements with Serbia since the dialogue process began in 2011 (very few of which have been fully implemented), while in that period more than 20 per cent of Kosovo’s population has left because of the lack of economic opportunities and the struggling education and health systems.
Serbia is not to blame for this. It is the inability of our politicians to simultaneously manage the dialogue and build a functioning state. Even if Kosovo signs another ‘legally binding’ agreement with Serbia, it is unlikely that this will alter our daily life. This is why, when we ask Kosovo’s citizens what their priorities are in these elections, nobody answers that a (non)binding agreement is at all urgent or at the top of their list.
The darker side of this story is that political parties in power have used this idea of being internationally approved through their co-operation with Serbia as an excuse to steal public funds, employ political militants in public institutions and make themselves richer.
Therefore, as voters in these upcoming elections we will be asking ourselves different questions: Which of the parties competing is most likely to improve our poor health and education systems? Who is less corrupt? Who has in their midst people who have accomplished something in their lives, like holding down real jobs rather than being a professional politician? Who is consistent and has not frequently flip-flopped on their stances? Which party has more people able to think and to manage?
There is one brighter aspect in the buildup to the elections so far. None of those vying for power are pretending that the situation in Kosovo is good, not even those who have been in government the longest. Both the critics and those criticized for having caused the mess Kosovo finds itself in have one thing in common: they agree on the key problems Kosovo is suffering from – corruption and the low standards in healthcare and education, to name the most cited.
As absurd as it sounds, this situation is better than facing politicians who refute the reality or are living in denial. It means that we have a consensus on what Kosovo’s priorities are. Up until now, no one has told us that ‘integrating into NATO’, ‘Serbia’ or ‘the tariff’ are Kosovo’s primary concerns.
In view of these being snap elections, the parties are not likely to have strong, developed political programs due to the short timeframe in which they are operating.
Kosovo’s citizens though have immediate, existential needs.
They need a government that offers adequate healthcare to patients and classrooms in public schools that are not packed with 40 pupils. They need drinking water and a functioning sewage system. They need the same economic conditions for those with familial connections to the government and those without. They need a justice system that responds when violence is reported. They need food standards to be upheld. They need employers who put the lives of their employees at risk to be reported.
Many of these issues are less dependent on ideology and more on professionalism and practical solutions. That is why BIRN has gathered a pool of internal and external experts from several sectors (who have been involved in their area of expertise for at least 10 years) to not only describe the problems Kosovo faces in a certain field, but to also propose solutions to these problems.
We are offering some recommendations that we would like to see reflected in political party programs, which we expect to be available when the campaign formally starts on September 25.
No longer can civil society be accused of only acting as a critic, and not providing solutions to Kosovo’s problems. We are sick of inept governance and corruption embedded in institutions, and as citizens we can not allow consecutive governments to make Kosovo so uninhabitable that the population has to resort to migration.
But at the same time, as media we have a responsibility towards our audiences to pose challenging questions to parties who want power. Political parties can not be allowed to buy themselves good publicity through a financial dependence on payments made for advertising.
If we do not challenge party candidates about the real-life problems of our viewers and readers, the public is right to believe that the media is also part of the corrupt ‘elite’.
Our solutions based series already includes recommendations for Kosovo’s economy, which grows year on year but doesn’t benefit its citizens, the judiciary which has lost the faith of the people and faces a huge backlog of cases, the much heralded police force which is in danger of not living up to its reputation and foreign policy, which has stuttered in recent years.
In addition to this, from Wednesday September 25 onwards we will be challenging the programmes of each prime ministerial candidates on RTV21 every evening at 20:30. The programmes will all feature a panel of experts made up of members of civil society, the media, activists and non-Albanian communities, who have been supplying these recommendations.
Kallxo.com, Jeta Ne Kosove and Prishtina Insight will also continue to bring you election coverage up until ballots are cast on October 6. Be informed!
23 September 2019 - 15:59
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