Freedom in the World
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Kosovo’s institutions remain weak, and rampant corruption has given rise to deep public distrust in the government. Journalists face serious pressure, and risk being attacked in connection with their reporting. While Kosovo holds credible and relatively well-administered elections, politics in recent years have been dominated by a polarized dispute over the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, which is meant to allow greater autonomy for Kosovo’s ethnic Serb minority population. Its implementation is key to Kosovo’s eventual accession to the European Union (EU), but it is vehemently opposed by parties that believe it threatens Kosovo’s sovereignty.
- Political opposition, which on a number of instances became violent, hampered the implementation of an EU-brokered agreement to boost autonomy for the ethnic Serb minority, as well as parliamentary approval of a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro that was also backed by the EU.
- In August, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the parliament building. Six people, all reportedly members of an opposition party, were arrested in connection with the attack.
- In January, a new war crimes tribunal was established in The Hague, the Netherlands, to handle cases concerning alleged war crimes carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the 1999 conflict.
- The first Serbian Orthodox Synod held in Kosovo since the 1999 conflict took place in May.
Opposition protests, some of which turned violent, hampered policymaking in 2016. Three opposition parties—the Movement for Self-Determination (Vetëvendosje), the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), and the Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma)—led a campaign against an EU-brokered deal to establish the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, which is meant to allow greater autonomy for Kosovo’s ethnic Serb population; the opposition coalition also opposed another EU-backed deal on border demarcation with Montenegro, which they argued deprived Kosovo of land. Opposition protests took place both on the streets, where firebombs were occasionally deployed by participants of mass demonstrations, and inside the parliament, where tear gas was released on a number of occasions. In February, such disruptions accompanied the election by parliament of Hashim Thaçi, a leading politician with the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), as president. In August, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the parliament building. Six people were arrested in connection with the attack, all of them reportedly members of Vetëvendosje.
Meanwhile, in July 2016 the government established a working group, which included Serb representatives, to draft a statute for the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities.
Journalists report frequent harassment and intimidation, and occasional physical attacks. There were at least two instances in 2016 in which media workers with the public broadcaster were targeted by explosive devices, though no one was injured. One attack took place in a reporter’s backyard, and the other at the outlet’s offices.
The constitution guarantees religious freedom. In an encouraging development, the first Serbian Orthodox Synod held in Kosovo since the 1999 conflict took place in May. Two minor security incidents were recorded, but the event otherwise took place peacefully. However, as in previous years, Serbian Orthodox structures were vandalized in 2016.
In January, a new war crimes tribunal was established in The Hague to prosecute former KLA fighters. The opposition had opposed the court’s establishment, arguing that it violated Kosovo’s sovereignty, but its legal appeal was struck down in 2015.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in the Kosovo, see Freedom in the World 2016.