Kosovo

Transitional or Hybrid Regime
36
100
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 36.31 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 3.18 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
35 100 Transitional or Hybrid Regime
The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic.

header1 Score changes in 2020

  • National Democratic Governance rating improved from 2.50 to 2.75 due to the concession of power by the ruling government to an opposition-led coalition following snap parliamentary elections resulting from the preceding resignation of the Prime Minister.
  • Independent Media rating improved from 3.00 to 3.25 to reflect a positive trend towards pluralism in the sector with growth in the diversity of outlets, as well as increased donor funding of independent media outlets with the aim of enhancing media literacy and countering misinformation.

header2 Executive Summary

By Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS)

Kosovo had a convulsive year in 2019, characterized by a fragile, dysfunctional, and weak coalition government; abuse of public finances; scandalous decisions by leaders; and a significant expansion in the size of the Haradinaj administration. There were some improvements in electoral processes and civil society, while reform processes in general stalled due to a lack of political will. Weaknesses in the overall functioning of the Assembly continued, including interruptions and delays in legislative activity due to the body’s highly polarized political context.

The country experienced another extraordinary election year in 2019, with snap local elections in four Serb-majority municipalities on May 19 and snap parliamentary elections on October 6 following the resignation of Prime Minister Haradinaj on July 19. Both votes were assessed to have been transparent, competitive, calm, and professionally administered, with the exception of the parliamentary elections in the Serb-majority areas, which were marred by outside influence from Serbian government officials.

The parliamentary election results suggest a major shift in Kosovo’s political landscape. The two former opposition parties won the most votes, while the ruling parties all conceded. Lëvizja Vetëvendosje (VV) came first, closely followed by Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës (LDK), while leaving behind the previous government’s coalition partners. Although competing under a unified electoral list, NISMA Socialdemokrate and New Kosovo Alliance (AKR), previously members of the governing coalition, barely passed the electoral threshold with 5.02 percent of the vote, though only after the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel decided not to include votes received from Serbia and conducted a recount of the majority of polling stations.1 However, certification of the results, after several rounds of recounting, came nearly two months after the election. More than 80 percent of votes were recounted due to technical mistakes identified on registration forms. This delayed certification and hampered an otherwise successful electoral process. Despite the delays, the winning parties quickly negotiated a harmonized version of their governing programs. However, by year’s end, a coalition agreement had not yet been reached.

During the year, civil society played a crucial role in some of the most important legislative processes and continued its opposition to the harmful and contradictory conduct of Kosovo’s public institutions. The capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) to monitor the country’s judicial and prosecutorial system significantly increased in 2019. However, financial sustainability remained one of the key challenges for the sector, as most organizations are dependent on international donors.

Despite Kosovo’s comprehensive legal framework for the independent media sector, little progress was made in 2019 to implement this framework in practice. Yet, while political interference in the media sphere continued, the donor community also increased its support for independent media, which are legally registered as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly in the area of enhancing media literacy and countering disinformation.

The framework for local institutions and administration saw incremental improvements in 2019, although financing continued to be problematic due to municipalities’ heavy dependence on transfers from the central government. Snap elections took place in May as four mayors of Serb-majority municipalities resigned over the imposition of a 100-percent tariff on imports from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was no surprise that candidates from the Srpska Lista party were the eventual victors in all four municipalities, continuing the party’s dominance in Serb-majority areas.

New judicial bodies with the sole focus of trying cases of organized crime were established throughout the territory of Kosovo, increasing the country’s efforts to ensure rule of law, judicial independence, and fighting state capture. Nonetheless, no concrete initiatives to combat corruption were undertaken, and several existing laws to fight corruption have yet to be fully implemented. The judiciary continued its poor track record of convictions in corruption cases involving high-profile individuals, and those landmark cases already underway have practically stalled.

Although successive governments promoted such initiatives as the “Functional Review of the Justice Sector” and “Justice 2020” as necessary aspects of justice reform, these have failed to systematically identify and address deficiencies in the sector, and have often intentionally misidentified core problems. The above initiatives provided technical recommendations for courts and prosecutors but have failed to address the indispensable aspects of personal integrity, morality, and values of individuals holding senior positions within the judiciary. Consequently, both initiatives echo the apparent lack of political will to reform and improve Kosovo’s failing justice system.

One of the biggest challenges for the new government in 2020 will be the resumption of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, and the pressure to drop tariffs imposed on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. An important precondition for resuming the dialogue is lifting the 100-percent tariff, as international actors have explicitly demanded. A common electoral promise of VV and LDK has been the replacement of the 100-percent tariff with reciprocity measures. This move is expected to provoke more controversy than readiness from the Serbian side, potentially complicating any new start to dialogue between the states.

National Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. 2.753 7.007
  • An extremely fragile, dysfunctional, and weak coalition characterized Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s government in 2019. These weaknesses, together with evident abuse of public finances and lack of progress on substantial reforms, were some of the key features of the government during the year.1 The number of ministries was expanded from 19 to 21, including a considerable increase of deputy ministers to over 80 in total, in addition to more than 120 advisers. As a result, the Haradinaj government represented the largest executive branch in the Western Balkans.2
  • On July 19, Prime Minister Haradinaj resigned, surprising governing coalition partners and the opposition alike. According to the constitution, a new government could have been formed, but the main opposition political parties, Lëvizja Vetëvendosje (VV) and Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës (LDK), dismissed any possible move to form an interim government and called for early elections. President Hashim Thaçi had no alternative but to dissolve the Assembly, which he did on August 26, announcing snap parliamentary elections to be held on October 6.
  • According to the European Union Election Observation Mission (EUEOM), the parliamentary elections were transparent, competitive, and calm, and were professionally administered.3 However, in Serb-majority areas, there was apparent intimidation and direct pressure from Belgrade to support Srpska Lista party candidates.4
  • Following certification of the election results, VV and LDK engaged in numerous negotiations. Initially, they held thematic meetings to harmonize the governing program, which proceeded smoothly with both parties declaring that their programs had been largely harmonized. On December 26, the Assembly was constituted, and Glauk Konjufca (VV) was elected as the body’s chairman.5 Surprisingly, LDK voted for Konjufca without reaching a prior coalition agreement or agreeing to propose him for the position. The next round of meetings, which proved to be highly problematic, involved discussions about the division of political positions within the government.6 Negotiations were ongoing through the end of December, with no agreement on forming the new government by year’s end. The main obstacle was LDK’s request regarding the nominees for President of Kosovo.7
  • Implementation in January 2019 of the 100-percent tariff on goods imported from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina prompted the withdrawal of Srpska Lista from the government, further paralyzing the governing coalition’s ability to implement a legislative agenda as well as impeding the functioning of the Assembly. Only 20 percent of the government’s proposed draft laws were approved between January and August.8 In the last hours of its mandate on August 22, the Assembly managed to ratify the 2018 Financial Agreement of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) between Kosovo and the European Union (EU), under which the EU directly contributes €100 million to Kosovo.9
  • Throughout the year, three main factors challenged the ability of the government and the Assembly to function properly. First, a negotiation team was established to facilitate a wide political consensus embedded in a single unit mandated by the parliament to represent Kosovo in the interstate dialogue.10 Nevertheless, this initiative failed to achieve the consensus of all opposition parties as it was viewed as neither the body to lead the dialogue nor the forum in which to define dialogue priorities. Second, the issue of border revisions between Kosovo and Serbia, an idea introduced by President Thaçi, was ferociously opposed by the opposition parties and Prime Minister Haradinaj.11 And third, the launch of the European Reform Agenda (ERA), a document listing key government priorities vis-à-vis the EU, was hampered by the 100-percent tariff on Serbian and Bosnian and Herzegovinian goods, a tax opposed by the EU.12 The ERA’s delay halted a process that, under supervision of the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, had offered the Kosovo government a more focused and intensive approach to key reforms.
  • In July, the Constitutional Court declared that the law governing the interstate negotiating team was unconstitutional,13 due to its not being embedded in the constitution and thus not foreseen within the governmental structures and separation of powers.14 This move provoked another round of heated debates that seriously damaged relations between the prime minister, the main coalition partners, and the opposition. The law was meant to regulate the organizational structure, duties, responsibilities, and competences of the state delegation, spelling out the institutional hierarchy and decision-making procedures.
  • All direct attempts to induce a new dynamic and jumpstart the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue were unsuccessful in 2019, as efforts in general were undercut by inadequate preparation, poor timing, and lack of consensus. Likewise, the EU, including Germany and France via the “Berlin Summit,” failed to facilitate a new round of talks.15 At the same time, the United States’ appointment of its latest special envoy constituted a major development and was perceived as a valuable contribution in the attempts to reinstate the dialogue as quickly as possible.
Electoral Process 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. 3.504 7.007
  • In 2019, Kosovo’s electoral process continued a positive development trend, as the country successfully underwent snap local elections in the four Serb-majority municipalities in May, and then snap parliamentary elections in October. Once again, Kosovo partnered with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the EU. Both accepted the country’s formal invitation to assist in the local elections in the four Serb-majority municipalities1 and to monitor the parliamentary elections through an EU Election Observation Mission (EUEOM), respectively.2 Overall, the local snap elections were considered well administered but generally noncompetitive and marred by voter intimidation. Meanwhile, the snap parliamentary elections were considered regular, well-administered, democratic, and transparent but also marred by intimidation from Serbian government officials towards non–Srpska Lista candidates and supporters,3 and a lack of competition in the Kosovo Serb areas.4
  • Despite extensive pressure for reform coming from the EU, international organizations, and civil society, the 2019 electoral process was similar to previous general elections and again failed to address a variety of long-identified shortcomings.5 These include a lack of effective oversight and enforcement of political party funding, underrepresentation of women in political party structures and elected office, deficient electoral dispute mechanisms, voter list inaccuracies, and inadequate voting processes for Kosovar citizens abroad.6
  • The snap local elections in Serb-majority municipalities took place on May 19.7 This move was necessitated by the resignation of mayors in North Mitrovica, Leposavić, Zubin Potok, and Zvečan in November 2018. As expected, candidates from Srpska Lista won overwhelmingly in all four municipalities, with 96.6 percent of votes in Leposavić, 94.5 percent in Zubin Potok, 94.7 percent in Zvečan, and 91.1 percent in North Mitrovica. The other two parties in the race, VV and PDK, fell well behind in obtaining a significant number of votes.8
  • The snap parliamentary elections took place on October 6. Election day was considered orderly and without major incident throughout the voting and counting process. The only registered incidents included violations of voter privacy mainly through the photographing of polling sites,9 physical altercations at the polls,10 and alleged misconduct in voter assistance at polling sites.11 The Central Election Commission (CEC) ensured the transparency of the vote by promptly publishing online the preliminary, unofficial results. According to the EUEOM, transparency was a key feature of the CEC’s work, and it was commendable that, despite the snap election, the CEC had completed all electoral preparations on time.12
  • Turnout was at a record high: 44.72 percent—or 877,106 Kosovars—cast their votes, more than in any other previous parliamentary election.13 These results suggest a major change in Kosovo’s political landscape. The two former opposition parties won the most votes, while the ruling parties all conceded on election night. VV came in first with 26.16 percent of votes, winning the election with a historically narrow margin over LDK, who came in second with 23.46 percent of votes. Kosovo’s longest ruling party, PDK, came in third with 21.16 percent followed by the AAK-PSD coalition with 11.14 percent. As for the Serb minority, Srpska Lista secured only 6.75 percent of votes.14
Civil Society 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups. 4.505 7.007
  • In 2019, civil society played a crucial role in relation to the government’s work, including contributing to the draft Law on Freedom of Association in Non-Governmental Organizations and the draft Law on Financing of Political Entities, among others. Furthermore, the capacities of civil society organizations (CSOs) to monitor Kosovo’s judicial and prosecutorial system were significantly increased. CSO sustainability remains one of the key challenges for the sector, and most organizations are financially dependent on international donors. Throughout the years, there has been an evident decrease in funding from donors but, at the same time, a slight increase in public funding to CSOs.1
  • The civil sector showed strong and serious opposition to the Law on Civil Society, which was approved by the parliament in November 2018. According to detractors, the adopted law severely jeopardized the functioning of the nongovernmental sector.2 After five months of intense advocacy from around 300 CSOs, and the successful petitioning of President Thaçi to return the law to the parliament for reconsideration, the Assembly in April voted in favor of the amendments proposed by civil society activists.3
  • Similarly, CSOs showed resilience in opposing the draft Law on Financing of Political Entities that was set for a parliamentary vote. Newly proposed provisions were found incompatible with recommendations from the Venice Commission, and were out of sync with the highest standards of integrity, accountability, and transparency, going against the calls for electoral reform.4 Over 100 CSOs joined in a public campaign against the draft law. The campaign was diverse and widespread in its opposition activities, including a petition letter directed at the head of the EU office in Kosovo, a reaction letter, two public marches, a press conference, and other forms of public pressure.5 After a two-month campaign (May–June), the government succumbed to the civil sector’s requests and withdrew the draft law.6
  • CSOs continued their opposition to the harmful and contradictory conduct of Kosovo’s public institutions. From July through October, a large number of groups reacted negatively to the Justice Ministry’s recruitment process for new notaries. CSOs registered deep concerns over the first phase of the notary exam.7 In a joint public statement, the groups levied harsh criticism at alleged nepotism in the selection of candidates, as a high number of candidates who passed the first phase were related on a familial, political, or friendly basis to members of the selection panel and the political party that currently governs the Justice Ministry.8 These concerns were noted by the International Union of Notaries (IUN),9 which sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice, reflecting similar concerns.
  • For the third year in a row, a Pride Parade was held in Kosovo in the capital Pristina, culminating a full Pride Week of activities. Hundreds of people, activists, and organizations marched in the city’s main square with the participation of U.S. Ambassador Philip Kosnett, USAID Mission Director Lisa Magno, and local authorities. The event took place without incident.10 Kosovo has a well-developed legislative framework to protect the rights of the LGBT+ community. Legal protections are foremost embodied in the constitution, which has been adapted to include international human rights instruments into Kosovo’s legal system. To that extent, the Law on Protection from Discrimination provides a direct legal protection for the LGBT+ community. However, it is not always adequately implemented, and in practice, the community is still considered as marginalized.11
Independent Media 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media. 3.253 7.007
  • In 2019, there were no changes to the legal framework governing Kosovo’s media sector, which ensures the highest standards of media protection in the region, as well as freedom of expression pursuant to the constitution. According to a 2019 European Commission report, the Law No. 06/L-085 on Protection of Whistleblowers, adopted in December 2018, provides adequate protection to whistleblowers.1 2 Yet, despite this comprehensive legal framework, the media sector has seen little progress in implementing these standards.
  • Kosovo’s media environment is quite diverse, consisting of 19 TV stations, 85 radio stations, 87 media service providers, and an increasingly broad digital sector. Out of the 19 TV outlets licensed by the Independent Media Commission (IMC), there are 2 with national coverage, 11 with regional coverage, and 5 with local coverage, while Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) is the public broadcaster. Regarding language diversity, there are 14 TV stations broadcasting in Albanian and 5 in Serbian, while some broadcast also in other minority languages. Similarly, there are 54 radio stations in the Albanian language, 22 in Serbian, and 9 in the remaining minority languages, including one multiethnic radio station.3
  • The Assembly failed to adopt an amendment to the Law on Public Broadcasting in 2019 that would have provided a solution for the independent financing of RTK, which remains largely financed by the state budget.4 The RTK workers’ union blamed the Assembly and its political parties for the current deterioration of RTK and lack of political will to adopt the change.5 Similarly, they denounced the political and non-merit-based recruitment of the new general director of RTK.6 The European Commission has also criticized the public broadcaster as being politically influenced, and lacking professionalism and nontransparent recruitment procedures.7
  • Political interference in the media sector was quite evident in 2019. In January, journalist Nebih Maxhuni reported on instances of interference by the presidential administration. Maxhuni published private exchanges between Ridvan Berisha, RTK editor-in-chief, and Adil Behramaj, adviser to President Thaçi, in which they previewed journalistic questions to be posed to the president.8 In May, PDK leader Kadri Veseli directly pressured Gazeta Express editor-in-chief Leonard Kerquki.9 The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AGK) condemned these cases of politicization of the media, while calling for adherence to professional journalistic principles.10
  • Journalism in Kosovo continues to be a challenging profession, as individuals still face threats and assaults in the field. In June, Enis Misini from Kosova Press was stripped of his camera and prohibited from filming a fight between LDK members of parliament. The case was reported to the police and the AGK.11 In July, journalist Gramos Zurnaxhiu was attacked by unknown assailants while filming the demolition of buildings at Abi Çarshia, a shopping center in Prizren.12 Additionally, journalists Zana Cimili and Irfan Maliqi, and journalists on the platforms Periskopi and Indeksonline, received threats of physical violence through social media.13 These incidents notwithstanding, the frequency of attacks on journalists has decreased overall as rule-of-law institutions have taken a more proactive response.14
  • While Kosovo’s public broadcaster is still financed by the state budget, and public media rely mainly on advertisements for funding, donor support for independent media (legally registered as NGOs) has been increasing with the aim to enhance media literacy and, most importantly, countering disinformation in the media.15 16 The latter, considered a disturbing phenomenon in Kosovo, has damaged the image of serious media outlets.17
Local Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities. 3.504 7.007
  • Local autonomy in Kosovo is guaranteed by the constitution and the Law on Self Governance. The country is composed of 38 municipalities, each administered by an elected mayor and a municipal assembly that decides on regulatory issues within its competences. Financing, however, continues to be problematic, since the funding of municipalities remains heavily dependent on transfers from the central government. Local resources constituted only about one sixth of the typical municipal budget in 2019.1 At the same time, the amount of funds allocated from the state budget grew, in absolute terms, to approximately €530 million, which conversely represents a slight decrease in relative terms.2
  • The Assembly approved the Law on the Capital City of the Republic of Kosovo, Pristina, in May 2018. Among other conditions, it foresees the creation of a special police unit for the needs of the capital, in compliance with the Law on Kosovo Police.3 Nonetheless, more than a year after the law entered into force, there is still no municipal police. According to the mayor of Pristina, Shpend Ahmeti, the process has stalled due to resistance from both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the police. Nevertheless, Mayor Ahmeti vowed to raise the issue with the incumbent government following the October snap parliamentary elections.4 5
  • The question of establishing an Association of Serb Municipalities remained unanswered in 2019. Discontent intensified in the Serb community with the imposition of a 100-percent tariff on imports from Serbia, which led to the resignation of four Srpska Lista mayors of Serb-majority municipalities—North Mitrovica, Leposavić, Zubin Potok, and Zvečan—in November 2018.6 Their resignations were rejected by the central government given that, in their letters, the mayors referred to the Republic of Kosovo as “Kosovo and Metohija,” using the older, unofficial, and now-controversial nomenclature.7 Notwithstanding, the Law on Local Election asserts that if a mayor is absent from work for 30 days without a credible reason, he or she loses the position.2
  • In line with this rule, snap elections took place in the aforementioned municipalities on May 19, without any major incident. Three parties participated, namely, Srpska Lista, PDK, and VV. Srpska Lista was the only party representing the Serb community, which prompted expressions of concern from Western embassies in Kosovo (France, Germany, Italy, United States, and UK) that Srpska Lista had intimidated other Serb parties from competing.8 As expected, candidates from Srpska Lista were ultimately victorious in all four municipalities and ensured the party’s continued dominance in Kosovo’s Serb-majority areas.9
Judicial Framework and Independence 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions. 2.503 7.007
  • In 2019, the Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) and Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC) took steps towards ensuring rule of law, judicial independence, and fighting state capture. In June, the KJC established the Special Department in the Basic Court in Pristina and the Court of Appeals with the sole focus of trying cases of organized crime throughout the territory of Kosovo.1 Moreover, the Serious Crimes Department of the Basic Court in Pristina confiscated €946,821 in a large-scale money-laundering case.2 Although the case has moved to the Court of Appeals, it represents one of the boldest court decisions in Kosovo, given the country’s weak track record of confiscating illegal assets. In addition, during the year, the KJC appointed 37 new judges3 and the KPC appointed 12 new prosecutors.4
  • In April, the new Law on the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council was adopted.5 This legislation changed the composition of the council from 9 to 13 members. It further excluded the Ministry of Justice from participation in the council, and differs from the previous law in how it defines the competences of the council chair.
  • Kosovo’s judicial system drew criticism from international actors in 2019. The International Union of Notaries and the German Federal Chamber of Civil Law Notaries issued statements against the existing Law No. 06/L-010 on Notary, arguing that the legislation would cause considerable and irreparable damage to well-established notaries due to its lowering the threshold for new notarial offices to a per capita ratio of 1:10,000, thereby doubling the number of offices in the country.6 Additionally, the Justice Ministry held a recruitment process for the Notary Service that was strongly opposed by civil society, which argued the process was tainted by political ties and nepotism, thereby questioning the legitimacy of successful candidates and the objectivity of the selection panel.7
  • On the other hand, three years after establishment of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC), the first human rights case was finally submitted before the Constitutional Chamber of the KSC. This widely publicized matter challenged an order sent by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) to former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander Mahir Hasani requesting that he produce information regarding his whereabouts between 1998 and 2000. Failure to respond to the SPO order would be considered an unlawful act of disobedience and could entail enforcement measures. The defense argued that this request constituted a violation of the accused’s right to a fair and impartial trial. Based on the defense’s referral, the KSC suspended the SPO order until a final decision on the merits.
  • The KSC decision was implicitly read as confirming that SPO had breached Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Reflecting on these actions, the SPO withdrew its order.8 Moreover, the SPO summoned Prime Minister Haradinaj, who subsequently resigned on July 19.9 In October, the SPO summoned Justice Minister Abelard Tahiri,10 former member of parliament (MP) Azem Syla,11 and questioned Driton Lajqi,12 head of the Division for Coordinating the Process of Legal Protection and Financial Support for Accused Persons before the KSC. By year’s end, no official declarations had been made relating to these developments, and the SPO had not filed any indictments.
Corruption 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. 2.252 7.007
  • Corruption is persistent in Kosovo and has become a social norm, despite modest institutional initiatives to combat it. The Anti-Corruption Agency regularly drafts and updates the anti-corruption strategy.1 Yet the strategy has never been fully implemented, and most of its objectives follow a box-ticking logic that lacks substantial action.2 Moreover, several laws against corruption enacted over the years still encounter implementation issues.
  • The saga of “war veterans” corruption scandals involving high-level officials continued through 2019. In December 2018, the SPO proposed suspending pension payments to war veterans who are under investigation until their cases were properly investigated and closed. The Basic Court of Pristina rejected this measure in March 2019, and, as a result, the state continues to disburse financial resources to more than 20,000 allegedly unqualified veterans.3
  • Other high-profile corruption cases continued, including those involving former MP Ukë Rugova, former minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports Astrit Haraqija, and former MP Azem Syla.4 Although judicial processes are officially ongoing, these cases have been stalled since 2016, with little interest shown from the respective courts to advance the proceedings5—further highlighting the judiciary’s lack of commitment to prioritize cases against high-profile individuals.
  • In August, news broke that the SPO had initiated an investigation into government officials related to a payment of €53.1 million to the construction company Bechtel-ENKA. The amount represented a surcharge imposed on the government for a delayed payment on construction of the highway between Pristina and Skopje, allegedly ordered by the Mustafa government.6 The reasons and individuals behind the delay were still unclear at year’s end.
  • In September, two judges and a police officer were arrested on charges of corruption and misuse of official position, subject to bribery.7 One judge had received €2,000 from the defendant.8 Both judges were suspended; one is in pretrial detention, and the other judge and police officer are under house arrest until further notice.9
  • The recruitment of new notaries led by the Ministry of Justice was overshadowed by concerns about the first phase of the notary exam. Reportedly, a high number of candidates who successfully passed the first phase of the selection process were, in fact, related on a familial, political, or friendly basis to members of the selection panel and the political party that currently governs the Justice Ministry.10 This constitutes a flagrant violation of the Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Discharge of Public Functions.11 These concerns were noted, in particular, by the International Union of Notaries (IUN) and the German Federal Chamber of Civil Law Notaries.12
  • Despite the aforementioned corruption cases involving judges, police officers, former MPs, as well as former and current government officials, indictments on corruption are few and far between in Kosovo. Convictions are also rare. The competent authorities are reluctant to tackle and prosecute high-profile corruption, which ends up confining their efforts almost exclusively to fighting petty corruption. Between June and December 2019, the basic courts throughout Kosovo had issued only 53 convictions out of 340 ongoing corruption cases.

Authors: Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS). The Group for Legal and Political Studies is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit public policy organization based in Pristina, whose mission is to conduct credible policy research in the fields of politics, law, and economics, and to push forward policy solutions that address the failures and/or tackle the problems in these policy fields.

Lead contributor: Dr. Arbëresha Loxha, Executive Director and a Senior Research Fellow at Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS) in Pristina. She holds both Master and PhD degrees in Economics from the University of Staffordshire, UK. Dr. Loxha has led dozens of research projects in Kosovo and abroad, and has taken part as a lead expert in testimonies for numerous institutions, government bodies, and international organization based in Kosovo.

Contributors: Delfine Elshani, Ereza Pula, Njomëza Arifi, Perparim Kryeziu and Rreze Hoxha

Note

The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    56 100 partly free