Kosovo | Freedom House

Nations in Transit

Kosovo

Kosovo

Nations in Transit 2006

2006 Scores

Democracy Score
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

5.36

National Democratic Governance
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

5.75

Electoral Process
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

4.75

Civil Society
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

4.25

Independent Media
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

5.50

Local Democratic Governance
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

5.50

Judicial Framework and Independence
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

5.75

Corruption
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

6.00
Executive Summary: 

This report is associated with the reports on Serbia and Montenegro. In Nations in Transit 2006, Freedom House provides separate ratings for Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo in order to provide a clearer picture of processes and conditions in the three different administrative areas. Doing so does not indicate a position on the part of Freedom House regarding the territorial integrity of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro; neither does it indicate a position on Kosovo's future status.


Governance concerns related to determining the final status of Kosovo remained high on the domestic and international agenda in 2005, with competency and political willingness being tested across the board in Kosovo's institutions.

According to the Constitution of 1974, Kosovo was one of the constitutive units of the Yugoslav Federation. Named the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo, it had territory, borders, a Constitution, and government institutions similar to those of the other republics that formerly constituted the Yugoslav Federation. After the demonstrations of Albanian students in 1981, the central federal government and the Republic of Serbia undertook a series of measures toward the eventual declaration of martial law in Kosovo, which began the process of undoing the constitutional position of Kosovo in the Yugoslav Federation. The position of Kosovo in the Yugoslav Federation was changed on March 23, 1989, when constitutional amendments were approved under the circumstances of a severe curfew in Kosovo, conducted by significant police and military forces.

These constitutional amendments began the installation of a system of apartheid, turning the majority population (the Albanians) into second-class citizens. A year later, on July 2, 1990, the Kosovo Parliament announced a constitutional declaration of independence from Serbia. Three days after, Serbia enacted a series of illegal measures, including the abolition of the Kosovo Parliament. The majority of parliamentarians were forced to leave Kosovo, while Serbia essentially began the occupation of Kosovo.

In December 1989, a new political party was established--the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK)--which took the features of a national movement, and afterward other Albanian political parties emerged. Also at the end of 1989, the first nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Council for Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF), and the Mother Teresa charitable society, were established, and the organization of independent trade unions began. These very soon became trade unions of the unemployed, as within a short time the dismissal of Albanians from their jobs in dramatic numbers began. Under the leadership of the LDK and its head, Ibrahim Rugova, a peaceful protest movement was organized, and in fact, a parallel system of daily life by the majority population of Kosovo started to develop.

The parallel system was especially implemented in the areas of education and health care, while their funding was organized by the government in exile. Education was subsidized by the Kosovo Government Fund, which was created by contributions from Albanians. As the armed conflict burst out in some parts of the former Yugoslavia, in Kosovo affairs were being conducted according to a peaceful doctrine known as "rugovism." However, when Kosovo was left out of the Dayton accords, many people turned away from the LDK and Rugova and toward more militant movements.

The end of 1997 marks the public appearance of the Kosovo Liberation Army and its accelerated growth. The peaceful movement led by Rugova, although still supported by a majority of the population, had started losing its support to military forces. In 1998, battles took place in which the Serb military forces prevailed and which militarily were better prepared, better supplied, and numerically larger. Escalation of tensions and military actions continued despite international pressure and a verifying mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The end of 1998 and beginning of 1999 brought a new offensive by Serb forces. After a massacre carried out by the Serb forces in the village of Recak (January 15, 1999), the international community, and the Contact Group in particular, urgently prepared the Rambouillet Conference, whose documents were not signed by the Serb delegation. Upon that refusal, NATO forces began their military air raid against the Serb forces, while Serb forces undertook a campaign of ethnic cleansing of territories, resulting in 1 million forcibly displaced people, about 12,000 killed, and about 4,600 missing (data from 2003 collected by the CDHRF). The NATO military intervention lasted for 78 days and resulted in the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement. Serb forces left the territory of Kosovo, while on June 10, 1999, the UN Security Council promulgated Resolution 1244, whereof Kosovo was placed under the jurisdiction of the UN International Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and NATO forces (KFOR) were introduced to provide peace and security in Kosovo and the region.

In 2000, UNMIK worked with political factions to develop the Constitutional Framework for the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG). The PISG provided substantial autonomy, delineating the powers of UNMIK and Kosovar institutions. Since 2000, Kosovar institutions have taken on more and more responsibilities--however, with mixed results. After the outbreak in ethnic-based violence in 2004, UNMIK decided to increase the pace of its handover of powers to enable domestic institutions to take on more direct responsibility for the protection of minorities as well as overall governance issues within Kosovo. The result has been mixed partially because of the larger status issues and capacity to take on enhanced capacities during a relatively short time.

In 2005, the international community began to take serious steps to finalize Kosovo's status. The process started with UN envoy Kai Eide's report to the Security Council in May that was critical of Kosovo's governing institutions. However, with the appointment of two senior diplomats, Martti Ahtisaari (former president of Finland) and his deputy Albert Rohan (Austria), to head the international delegation and Frank Wisner as U.S. representative, a timeline was set to resolve Kosovo's status. Both have made it clear that Kosovo's status will be resolved in 2006. The number one issue on the agenda is the status of the Kosovo Serb community, which has tended to work more closely with the Belgrade negotiating team than with Pristina on negotiations. Regardless, the international community holds as a key demand that the Kosovo institutions go beyond lip service and provide the Serb community with assurances that their rights will be protected. The international community has made this a crucial factor in meeting the Albanians' demands.

Ahtisaari, who brought the parties to the signing of 1999 Kumanovo Agreement (which ended NATO action against Serbia and Montenegro), started the negotiation process that will determine the final status of Kosovo. The Kosovo delegation entered the process with full independence for Kosovo as its platform, while the Serb delegation maintained a platform of less than independence and more than autonomy. Regardless of the fact that these negotiating parties stand distant from each other, the process is expected to end in 2006 and a status solution found based on the principles set down by the six-nation Contact Group on Kosovo. Those principles will include, among other things, the stipulations that Kosovo's final status must be binding but cannot be a status achieved through force.

National Democratic Governance. The transfer of power from internationals to the PISG continued with increased intensity in 2005. Elections brought the creation of a new government, and the Parliament for the first time has a real opposition, which has to some extent revived parliamentary life, although opposition parties frequently walked out of the Parliament. The political struggle of the opposition in the Parliament, although in some moments quite limited, has raised the level of political dialogue in institutions and society in general and has started to educate the public that in a democracy all subjects are open for discussion. No progress was made on the decentralization process. Kosovo's national democratic governance rating remains at 5.75.

Civil Society. In 2005, government acceptance of NGO activities decreased. The vocabulary used by people from the government to describe NGOs also changed; they described NGOs as small organizations that work for money, and chose other language that undermines or belittles NGOs' democratic role. Activists of the movement Vetvendosja were often arrested and ill-treated by police. The activities of the civil society, especially those related to anticorruption and transparency, have decreased owing to the negotiations process for the status of Kosovo, which has dampened civil society enthusiasm for criticism of the Kosovo administration. Although NGOs have continued to define their missions and started to build a profile for themselves, their public image is weak. Within the PISG, some affairs were trusted to these institutions according to the Constitutional Framework. However, the PISG had only a partial role in ownership issues, such as privatization. The civil society sector remains donor driven and depends mainly on foreign funds, as an environment conducive to local philanthropy has not been created. The number of policy-and/or advocacy-oriented NGOs increased; however, cooperation among NGOs remains low. Kosovo's rating for civil society worsens from 4.00 to 4.25 owing to its stagnation and failure to provide checks and balances to the emerging government structures and its reduced public willingness to engage in critical monitoring during status talk negotiations.

Electoral Process. Since the end of the conflict in 1999, Kosovo has had two sets of local elections and two national elections, which were in general assessed as free and fair by local and international observers. Media coverage of the elections was balanced, even though there are some partisan newspapers. Political parties accepted the election results. During the first elections internationals interfered a lot to help the establishment of Kosovo government, but in the second elections internationals let locals establish government themselves, which strengthened local institutions. In 2005, Electoral competences were transferred largely to the domestic Kosovo Central Election Commission Secretariat (CECS). Voter turnout has continually and rapidly decreased from the first to the last elections. Parties have difficulty communicating their distinct policies to voters--that, in concert with an election system that does not allow voters to make choices based on individual or local interests, is driving down voter turnout. In 2005, the International Crisis Group joined the advocacy effort opposing use of the closed list system, but it appears that the 2006 local elections will take place under the existing electoral system. Kosovo's rating for electoral process remains unchanged at 4.75.

Independent Media. In general, the media are enhancing their professionalism, but there are differences between electronic and printed media. The media are still facing many difficulties. According to the Association of Professional Journalists in Kosovo, media in Kosovo experience three types of pressure: violence by the police and security personnel of governmental actors; financial constraints; and political pressure. Political pressure is used primarily against investigative journalists, while ordinary pressure is used against media by government institutions, especially in advertising matters. Printed media are more advanced, especially in the area of investigative journalism; however, circulation is very low. Electronic media have been observably more closed and cautious since the events of March 17, 2004. Meanwhile, the press is filled with articles on corruption, mismanagement of power, and other issues that the electronic media are reluctant to broach. Kosovo's rating for media remains unchanged at 5.50.

Local Democratic Governance. Though efforts for a serious reform of local democratic governance took a backseat to the highly politicized decentralization issue, there was a general consolidation of services. This resulted from the passage of two mandates with stable democratically elected governing structures. However, the system still lacks clear independence in running local affairs, with the special representative of the secretary-general having the ultimate power to turn over any local assembly decision on the one hand and no clear assuming of powers by the central authorities of the PISG on the other. However, there was a tendency to debate the situation openly, including at the level of local governments. Kosovo's local democratic governance rating remains at 5.50.

Judicial Framework and Independence. The implementation of three sets of laws makes Kosovo a unique and difficult place. Courts at all levels are overloaded with cases that remain unsolved for many years. A criminal code has been adopted by Kosovo's Parliament, but the process of implementing laws is a big concern. The Parliament has managed to adopt more laws this year, and the process of promulgating them has strengthened. Kosovo's rating for judicial framework and independence remains unchanged at 5.75.

Corruption. According to many reports and analyses, 2005 was marked by widespread corruption within governmental structures at both national and local levels. Though a handful of anticorruption laws were enacted, most were not implemented. Kosovars faced a year of intensive media reports on alleged corruption but saw very little in the way of legal measures to curb the abuses. A law establishing an anticorruption agency has not yet been promulgated by the Kosovo Parliament, which was itself a target of media reports on corruption. Allegations of corruption and nepotism were especially directed at the top, with the ministries, and offices of the prime minister and president leading the list. On the other hand, there was little response from high officials to improve transparency. The rating for corruption remains unchanged at 6.00.

Outlook for 2006. Standards and negotiations for the political status of Kosovo were the top priority for the PISG, UNMIK, and all other political structures in Kosovo during 2005. Negotiations for political status will continue to be the main if not the only issue during 2006 as well. The position of minorities, particularly the Serb minority, will determine the "future status of Kosovo." Previous experience with the Balkans crisis shows that any agreement is very fragile, and Kosovo appears to be no exception. Therefore, the settlement has to be approved by the UN Security Council. The international community will continue to be present in Kosovo after that, but it will be in a different form from the UNMIK, and the European Union will have the biggest role. Both the negotiations team and the overall process were hit hard by the death of Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova. The LDK may split as a consequence of a possible battle among factions, and for the time being there is no leader with the authority to keep the party unified. And while everything will be led by the negotiating team modified after Rugova's death until the end of status negotiations, it is also expected that political parties will redesign their strategies, seeing Rugova's death as an opportunity to strengthen themselves. Therefore, together with the negotiations process there will be preparations for new elections, which will be required once Kosovo's status has been finalized. 

National Democratic Governance: 

After June 1999, the UN took charge of creating management structures in Kosovo. Governmental power was transferred gradually to the Constitutional Framework for the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), and dual powers in Kosovo are still present, although the process of determining the future status of Kosovo has already begun under the leadership of Martti Ahtisaari, appointed by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by President Ibrahim Rugova, won the greatest number of seats in the Parliament in the October 23, 2004 elections but could not form the government. Thus a coalition of formerly rival parties, Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK), formed the government in December 2004, led by the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander Ramush Haradinaj.

Prime Minister Haradinaj distinguished himself as a bold leader. In order to help integrate the Serb community into social developments, he managed to appoint Slavisa Petkovic, a Serb, as minister of returns and communities. Though Haradinaj gained the support of the public and the international community, the Hague Tribunal announced his indictment for war crimes on March 8, 2005. Haradinaj resigned and surrendered voluntarily to The Hague, proposing Bajram Kosumi as the new prime minister. President Rugova nominated Kosumi on March 18, 2005, and the Kosovo Parliament approved the Kosumi government on March 23, 2005. Despite worries, the government remained stable, thanks to Haradinaj's compliance with the tribunal, and focused on preparing for status negotiations.

In December 2003, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) worked with the Kosovar government to approve a list of standards for measuring progress in Kosovo, which included everything from the rule of law to minority rights. Kai Eide, Kofi Annan's envoy to Kosovo, began a standards evaluation mission in June 2005; he was finished after four visits, which focused on meeting representatives of both national and local governance as well as civil society leaders. In October, Eide advised the UN Security Council in his report that status talks could no longer wait, noting that Kosovar institutions were not adequately addressing the concerns of the Serb minority. Eide also had strong criticism for Kosovo's capacity to address crime, corruption, and nepotism in the society and its institutions. The reaction to Eide's report was positive across the political spectrum.

On April 29, 2005, the special representative of the secretary-general (SRSG), Jessen Petersen, proposed the establishment of the Kosovo Political Forum to create Kosovo policy; the forum did not have the support of the Parliament Speaker (from the ruling LDK) and was disbanded after two meetings. Following pressure from the opposition and the general public, President Rugova established a status negotiations team, which included Parliament Speaker Nexhat Daci, Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi (from the coalition partner AAK), opposition leaders Hashim Thaci from the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK) and Veton Surroi from the Citizens List Hour (ORA), and Blerim Shala (Zeri daily newspaper editor) as coordinator.

Kosovo's Parliament has a total of 120 seats. Hashim Thaci's PDK, established with the demilitarization of the guerrilla structure after the 1999 conflict, has 30 seats. The other small but vigorous opposition party, the ORA, run by publisher Veton Surroi, has 6 seats. Since March 2004, Serbs have boycotted the Parliament. The opposition has the force to revive parliamentary life and affect the strengthening of institutions, but shared competences between the PISG and UNMIK have proved problematic. The PDK and the ORA have frequently walked out of the Parliament in protest of Speaker Daci's authoritative behavior. Daci has blocked votes on a multitude of initiatives from the opposition, especially related to establishing mechanisms to investigate PISG misconduct.

Even so, 70 laws were approved by the Parliament in 2005, though the body is not effective in implementing legislation. The international community has noted that decentralization remains one of Kosovo's essential challenges, along with the return of the displaced and the government's exercise of power across the territory of Kosovo. For the first time after the war, direct meetings between the government ministers of Kosovo and Serbia took place in 2005. Minister of Local Governance Lutfi Haziri met his Serb counterpart, Zoran Loncar, in Vienna, and Minister of Culture Astrit Haraqija met his counterpart, Dragan Kojadinovic, in Belgrade and Bulgaria. Minister Haraqija has promised ¬1.5 million (US$1.89 million) more from Kosovo institutions to rebuild churches, while Haziri and Loncar discussed decentralization in Kosovo. These meetings were criticized for not being discussed and approved in advance by the Parliament.
 
Of Kosovo's 100,000 Serbs, one-third live in Mitrovica and the northern part of Kosovo, whereas the other two-thirds live in Serb enclaves in different parts of Kosovo. Kosovo's standard of living is low, with the average monthly salary at around ¬200 (US$253) and a high rate of unemployment. The privatization process of socially owned enterprises improved markedly in 2005, with another 132 privatized. The process gained momentum after the arrival of the current UNMIK Pillar Four head, Joachim Ruecker.

In May 2005, the largest opposition party formed a shadow cabinet, or so-called Good Governance Cabinet, although the activities of the body have been limited mostly to press conferences. As part of the transfer of power, on July 19 UNMIK presented the Kosovo government with drafts for establishing two new ministries (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Justice), which were made official in December when related powers were handed over to the Kosovo government.

Although the political struggles of the opposition in the Parliament have been limited, they have helped raise the level of political dialogue in public institutions and society in general. What stability the government has achieved can be attributed to the involvement of the entire political spectrum, international influence, and a consensus in the general public of the importance of resolving Kosovo's status. Consequently, the status negotiating team is currently considered the strongest and most respected political mechanism in Kosovo governance.

Electoral Process: 

Four elections have taken place in postconflict Kosovo with no observable irregularities. Elections were held at the municipal level in 2000 and 2002 and at the central level in 2001 and 2004. Domestic and international observers qualified these elections as free and fair. A record 73 percent turnout was noted in the 2000 local elections, which were the first elections after the war and showed an eagerness among the public to build domestic, democratic institutions by suffrage. However, immense discrepancies between public expectations and actual results have created a sharp sense of disappointment and have severely affected voter turnout in subsequent elections. The 2001 parliamentary elections had a 64 percent turnout, and only 51 percent of voters went to the polls in 2004. Serbian president Boris Tadic called on Kosovo Serbs to participate in the elections, directly opposing the Serbian government, the Orthodox Church, and most Kosovo Serb politicians, who had called for a boycott.

Several factors have driven down voter turnout: Political parties have a limited ability to communicate distinct policies to voters, and the election system fails to produce choices based on individual or local interests. The low level of participation shows that the public is concerned not only with the future status of Kosovo, but also with high unemployment, a failing education and health care system, and poor infrastructure.  However, the status issue seemed to reassert itself in 2005 with the approaching Kosovo status talks.

Since 1999, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo's Department of Elections has organized elections and enacted election rules. However, over the last four years the mission has transferred some of its responsibilities to the local election authorities, mainly the Central Election Commission and its Secretariat, which for the first time are expected to organize local elections in 2006.

In preparation for the last Kosovo assembly, the OSCE mission was still charged with maintaining the voter list, running the Out of Kosovo Voting   as well as the Count and Results Center. Though no elections were organized and maintained exclusively by the PISG, political parties have been involved in the process. Despite overall satisfaction with the electoral process in Kosovo, stakeholders were not as pleased with the election law itself.

Central and local elections have both used a proportional system with closed lists as stipulated by the electoral law. Civil society and small parties have been the loudest in calling for changes to the law that would allow for open lists in a mixed majority and proportional electoral system. Proponents claim that these changes would give the public a wider range of choices among candidates rather than political parties, as preferred by the OSCE.  The OSCE insists that the proportional closed-list system makes it possible to maintain the sufficient participation of women in politics and that "open lists cause confusion among the voters."

By law, 30 percent of political party candidates in all elections must be women, and the proportional representation system using "closed" party lists has indeed ensured that 28 percent of the Parliament are women, or 34 out of 120 seats. However, the system has been criticized as undemocratic because it narrows voters' choices to three or four significant political parties. REFORMA 2004, a coalition comprising 300 NGOs, launched a campaign throughout the second half of 2004 and into 2005 asking UNMIK to change the electoral law to include open lists. This advocacy effort was joined in 2005 by the International Crisis Group. However, it appears that the 2006 local elections will take place under the existing electoral system.

Electoral competences were transferred largely to the domestic Kosovo Central Election Commission Secretariat (CECS) in 2005. The OSCE states that the CECS has proven its ability to organize elections, opening the possibility for the next elections to be run entirely from the PISG. However, this institution has yet to elect a chief executive director since the resignation last September of Adnan Merovci (the first local executive director) on accusations of bias.

The OSCE mission has thus far trained, mentored, and monitored the CECS. It continued to do so throughout 2005 by further building the capacity of the Secretariat, which operates as an apolitical multiethnic institution. Furthermore, Head of Mission Ambassador Werner Wnendt will continue to chair the commission, a body charged with election administration. The mission hopes to take a purely advisory role in the next municipal elections, which are scheduled for 2006.

Civil Society: 

The postconflict development of the Kosovar NGO community can be characterized as an income opportunity rather than a civic responsibility. Along with the constitutional freedom of association, UNMIK's Regulation 1999/22 provided a legal basis for establishing and registering NGOs and created a conducive environment by organizing groups into associations and foundations. The criteria for NGO registration is simple: Three individuals must cosign the NGO act of establishment and statute, and the certificate of registration must be issued within 60 days.
 
The UNMIK Liaison Office was initially established in 2000, with competences for NGO registration later transferred to the Ministry of Public Services. Organizations were obliged to report to their donors, while groups enjoying public benefit status were obliged to provide an annual financial report to the NGO Registration Liaison Office. Easy registration procedures, access to donors and funding, and a lack of government interference all contributed to the establishment of a large number of NGOs, and estimates show that by the end of 2003 over 2,000 NGOs were registered.

However, this conducive environment has not produced an increase in NGO capacity, creation of internal structures, division of responsibility, financial sustainability, or an improved public image for NGOs. Until the end of 2001, most NGOs implemented projects in the areas of democracy building, minority protection, women's rights, education, and so forth, but a majority did not have a clearly defined mission. Many NGOs have registered solely to secure public benefit status, which has hurt the public image of NGOs in general. Initially, the number of policy and advocacy initiatives was very small.

After the establishment of the PISG in 2001, most donors shifted their focus from civil society to institutional building and strengthening. Some of these donors stopped funding Kosovar NGOs altogether. From 2002 to 2005, NGOs have been establishing a higher profile. The number of policy- and advocacy-oriented NGOs has increased, and they are playing a more influential role in legislative processes at the local and central levels of government. However, willingness to be critical during status talk negotiations appears to have lessened, making the organizations less of a counterweight to government powers than anticipated, at least during this time period. And despite efforts, there has been little influence by such groups on the policies of UNMIK, which has been reticent to consult civil society. UNMIK and the OSCE completely ignored the REFORMA 2004 campaign under the pretext that they had reached consensus on the election system with the major political parties.

Kosovo's NGO sector has not yet matured into a pillar of civil society. The sector suffers from a lack of openness and transparency, weak governing structures, and a poor public image. Additionally, a low level of local philanthropy means that most NGOs depend mainly on foreign funds. As an example of these shortcomings, the 2005 Trade Union of Education strike for higher teacher salaries resulted in a small increase of ¬7 (US$8.84) per month. It was clear from the strike that the existing organization of trade unions in fact lacks unity and is unsustainable. Without negotiation skills and public relations expertise, the union could not attract membership or followers.

However, the increasing number and strength of watchdog and advocacy organizations have led to changes in the existing government setup, language, and treatment regarding NGOs. Vetvendosja (Self-Determination), one of the largest and most controversial movements to emerge from the Kosova Action Network (KAN), is led by former student leader Albin Kurti. Responding to the upcoming final status talks, the group emblazoned its slogan, "No Negotiations--Self-Determination!" on every corner and facade in Kosovo.

Kosovo's public university has the largest number of students. Even though senior management claims the university is independent and depoliticized, the state's main political forces have not given up their influence on the institution. In 2005, the minister of education dismissed university rector Arsim Bajrami (active in the PDK) on the pretext that during his election process the legislation in force was breached. Many felt that his dismissal was a sign of change in political control of the university leadership. Legislation on the establishment and registration of private higher education institutions is quite liberal, and their number has increased. Except for the private university, American University of Kosovo, developed cooperatively by several American universities, private institutions have not had much of an impact on the education system in Kosovo.

There are no data as to whether the number of Wahhabi sect followers has increased, but they do not enjoy wide support and have no influence on the general public. The Orthodox Church is quite active and influential among the Serb population. The activities of other religious groups, such as evangelicals and Jehovah's Witnesses, are geared largely toward providing humanitarian services.

Independent Media: 

In principle, all UN declarations on press freedom apply to Kosovo, since it is under UN administration. The Temporary Media Commissioner (TMC) was established by UNMIK in June 2000 to regulate the media in Kosovo  and affirms Articles 19 and 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the five provisions on press freedom in the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, Reporters Without Borders' annual Worldwide Press Freedom index ranks Kosovo 100 out of 167 countries researched. This makes Kosovo the worst location in Europe for press freedom and the only place in Europe where a journalist, Bardhyl Ajeti from the daily Bota Sot, was murdered in 2005. The data from Reporters Without Borders match the picture portrayed by the Association of Professional Journalists in Kosovo (APJK), whose end-of-year report stressed a significant increase in violence against journalists in 2005. Among over 20 cases of reported violence against journalists from police forces, municipal or central government officials, and employers, there has been only one public apology.

The majority of cases involved the use of unreasonable force by members of the Kosovo Police Service (KPS). Refki Morina, spokesperson for the KPS, says this is due to a lack of proper training. "KPS officers undertake a six-month course during which there just isn't enough time to concentrate on the details of how to deal with the press, especially during protests, where both parties have a job to do," said Morina on January 13, 2005. The six-month training time for KPS officers is indeed inadequate. However, the greater issue is the lack of tradition among Kosovo police in dealing nonviolently with the public, especially the democratic press, which is viewed as "aggressive" by police officers brought up in the Communist era, when the press's job was to be far more obedient to the state apparatus.

The APJK reported three forms of pressure applied to journalists by powerful state and nonstate actors in 2005. Apart from direct use of force, mainly by state police and security staff, political and financial pressures were also brought to bear on the Kosovar media. Investigative journalists--who are labeled "opposition media" when they cover issues that portray the government in a compromising light--are frequent targets of political pressure. In most cases, state actors ban these journalists from the criticized institutions. Telephone and mobile phone text message threats are also common experiences for the majority of investigative journalists. The police response to such threats is reportedly inadequate, discouraging most journalists from reporting incidents.

The other common pressure from the government is to withdraw advertising from critical newspapers. This is an effective strategy in Kosovo's poorly developed economy and private advertising market, where state and local administration tenders and job openings make up the bulk of advertising for much of the print media. It is therefore difficult for the media's editorial and news-gathering functions to remain free of interference from the government or private owners. Yet neither political party has a complete power over newspapers or broadcast media, and the majority of the public (largely Kosovar Albanians) enjoys a relatively diverse selection, particularly in print media. However, total circulation is low: Only 20,000 copies were sold in Kosovo in 2005. Nevertheless, the print media remain the only source of investigative journalism. Since the March 17 riots in 2004,  broadcasting media have become even more isolated and cautious, rarely reporting on governmental transgressions. The press, on the other hand, is full of stories of corruption and misuse of public functions.

By contrast, both print and electronic sources for ethnic communities in the extremely important year to come, when final negotiations on Kosovo's status will take place, are as poor as in the immediate postwar years in Kosovo. Information programming directed to the largest minority in Kosovo, Serbs, is extreme on both ends. At one end, the minority news programming in Serbian of the public broadcaster Radio Television Kosovo (RTK),  is unpopular with Kosovar Serbs, who perceive it as providing politically correct, anemic, and irrelevant programming (in the Pristina media, Serb journalists are more inclined to please Albanian bosses). On the other end, the reporting from Serbia on Serbian TV stations, mostly RTS, Pink, and BK represents a view from Belgrade that is heavily politicized and detached from the everyday problems of Kosovo Serbs.

However, it is important to note that the code of journalistic conduct set by the TMC in 2000  to end incitements to ethnic hatred and violence in the press and broadcast media was largely respected in 2005. Although there is higher awareness than ever before that inflammatory language should not be used in ethnic contexts, this does not apply to political rival groups, where there has been a rise in public accusations, complaints, and libel lawsuits.

The majority of electronic media are privately owned, but Albanian news in the public broadcaster RTK remains the most watched and trusted news program for Kosovar Albanians. The popularity of mainstream RTK news broadcasts in Albanian does not translate to the same credibility among the Serbs. For the Serb minority, RTK's Serbian service remains the least trusted news broadcast because it is perceived as a channel for the Albanian majority. This differs from the situation in neighboring countries like Albania, Macedonia, and Serbia, where private stations have a lead on news viewership and public trustworthiness.

The financial viability of private media is subject not only to market forces, but to political influences and donor commitment. Journalists and media outlets are able to form their own viable professional associations, but many consider these associations too weak and unsupportive when journalists are faced with violence, pressures from employers, or other threats. The most support offered by the more prominent associations, such as the APJK, would be a press release that is published in the Kosovar media. Newspaper distribution is part of an old state public system, Rilindja, and has functioned in the same manner for 30 years. The daily Koha Ditore, the most sold paper, has its own alternative distribution system for two Kosovo towns, Pristina and Prizren. There are plans to privatize the Rilindja network.

Kosovo enjoys unrestricted access to the Internet, and an Internet café culture flourishes throughout Kosovar towns. However, a lack of electricity directly affects the use of the Internet in many villages and homes, and it is unclear how much the Internet is used for domestic news circulation and discussion in comparison with access to news and entertainment outside of Kosovo.

Local Democratic Governance: 

In 2005, local administrations continued to develop and consolidate their newly established governance structures, while some improvement in their capacities and public services was also noticed. A key highlight is the positive trend in the recruitment of minority communities: 16 of the 30 municipalities have met or exceeded targets on this point.  However, the overarching obstacles at the local level are connected with security concerns, the sense of uncertainty over the future status of Kosovo, and limited opportunities for civil servants in Kosovo to sustain a livelihood.

However, the prevailing issue in the debate about the future of Kosovo was the devolution of power from the central to the local level. In spite of further consolidation of local governing structures, the various plans for decentralization remained highly controversial. Initially, the question was how to return Serbs to the PISG. Belgrade-sponsored parallel administrative structures  continue to operate in most predominantly Kosovo-Serb municipalities. The main areas of parallel activities are courts, education, administration, and health care. A number of Kosovars rely on these administrative services, as UNMIK documents are not recognized in Serbia. The parallel health care system continues to function alongside the PISG-run health care and is financed by the Serbian Ministry of Health.

It appears that the March 2004 riots convinced the international administration to substitute its efforts to persuade Serbs to meld their parallel structures into Kosovo institutions with, instead, the decentralization of some essential functions, the most sensitive being security. Already in 2002, decentralization was promised to Kosovo Serbs in return for their participation in the elections and provisional institutions. However, according to Kai Eide, the UN envoy in Kosovo, real efforts and political will had been lacking until recently. During the summer of 2005, a desire to achieve quick results led to a less ambitious approach and insufficient consultations with those involved. Thus, the result has been "too little, too late." 

Implementation of the decentralization process has proved difficult. The international community had to exercise pressure on Kosovo's institutions on several occasions to advance the process. The main issue is the area and population size of the pilot municipality units. The initial proposal was changed to accommodate mainly Kosovo Serb concerns; a second, so-called plan B proposed amendments addressing those concerns and increasing the number of cadastral units within the pilot municipality units. However, Serbs boycotted the two Kosovo Serb majority pilot municipalities of Gracanica and Partesh. The boycott of these two pilot program municipalities came in the context of a general boycott of the PISG that started with the March 2004 events.
 
A positive step was taken on September 16 when delegations from Pristina and Belgrade met to discuss decentralization.  However, disagreements mounted toward the end of the year when Pristina and Belgrade appeared with their platforms for negotiations, neither of which foresaw a serious strategy for how to return Serbs to the PISG. On the other hand, the Kosovo Ministry of Local Governance began 2006 with a third new plan on decentralization, which is seen as an ad hoc solution related to the status negotiations on this issue rather than as an actual reform plan.

Specialists claim that the reform of local government has been reduced to a simple devolution of powers within the scope of decentralization.  Moreover, it is indisputable that the status negotiations will further hamper reform, since it is unlikely to gain the will of both Serbs and Albanians, who have opposite aims regarding Kosovo's status. Already, the actual legal framework on local self-government has shown serious deficiencies in securing the independence of municipalities to deal with local issues.  By the end of December 2005 the situation had not changed. Overall, there has been no change in the functioning of local administrations in line with international standards and the law, which remains under the jurisdiction of the SRSG. This is reflected in practice when the SRSG overrules the decisions of municipalities because of violations of the law.  The fact that it has proved virtually impossible to terminate public officials for misconduct has also raised many ethics problems.

The legislation assigns public functions to the municipalities as if they are branches of the central authority,  thereby not taking sufficiently into account that municipalities must be political entities with a certain degree of political, administrative, and financial independence. The municipalities exercise all powers not expressly reserved to the central authority.  Legislation states that whatever responsibility is not reserved to the central authority remains with the municipality, but it sets no limits for the central authority to assume responsibilities by later legislation and thus does not provide safeguards to prevent marginalizing or rendering insignificant the remaining responsibilities of the municipalities.

Another important aspect of the legal framework of Kosovo is the lack of recourse for municipalities to judicial remedy against the interference of the central authority in the right to local self-government. Recourse to judicial remedy is one of the fundamental principles enshrined in the European Charter of Local Self-Government. Furthermore, financial transfers are made to municipalities by the central authority based on objective criteria, including an assessment of the financial needs and resources of each municipality and the spending priorities established by the central authority. This section bears uncertainty as to whether and to what extent the spending priorities of the central authority could prevail over the financial needs and resources of the municipalities.

Overall, the general political environment is not expected to be very reform-friendly for the upcoming status year. Thus it is unrealistic to expect any significant result on reform of local self-government before the status question is resolved.

Judicial Framework and Independence: 

UN Security Council Resolution 1244 serves as a basis on which to govern Kosovo until its political status is resolved. Since then, Kosovo has been governed by three sets of laws: Yugoslav laws adopted before March 23, 1989; UNMIK regulations; and national legislation created after the establishment of the PISG.

Resolution 1244 designates the SRSG as the chief decision-making authority in Kosovo. The legislative, executive, and judicial powers are all under SRSG authority. Additionally, the SRSG is acknowledged as the final power in many issues, such as community protection, parliamentary dismissal, appointment and dismissal of local and international judges and prosecutors, decision making on certain foreign relations issues, signing laws approved by the Parliament, and other authorizations specified in Chapter 8 of the Constitutional Framework. The SRSG also has the mandate to develop provisional democratic and self-government institutions of Kosovo and to monitor the transfer of civil administration responsibilities from UNMIK to those institutions.

The SRSG is the head of UNMIK, whose structure consists of four pillars: the police and the judiciary, civil administration, democratization and democratic institutions, and reconstruction and economic development. The first two pillars are managed by the UN, the third pillar by the OSCE, and the fourth by the European Union (EU). The KFOR (NATO forces) acts outside these structures.

The governing structure in Kosovo is a complex hybrid of UN and domestic responsibilities. The UN has established a system whereby those with power (UNMIK) are not accountable to the public, while those without power (elected officials) can be held accountable by the general public. Consequently, the transfer of power to elected officials cannot be accomplished properly until the status of Kosovo is resolved; Kosovo has remained a stateless government for the past six years.

In order to fill a vacuum in legislation, UNMIK/SRSG allowed the application of Yugoslav laws approved before March 23, 1989. By contrast, in order to implement a provisional self-government framework, UNMIK/SRSG approved Regulation 2001/9, which is otherwise known as the Constitutional Framework of Kosovo. In terms of content and structure, this regulation is similar to the constitutions of countries, although there are issues that make this a legal act sui generis, representing an interlacement of local and international governance.

Chapter 2 of the Constitutional Framework fixes three main principles, which Kosovar institutions and officials must respect. These are (1) to exercise authority in accordance with the provisions of Resolution 1244; (2) to promote and respect the rule of law, human rights, and freedoms in compliance with democratic principles; and (3) to promote and observe the principle of division of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial powers. Chapters 4 and 5 deal with human rights and the rights of communities; although the Constitutional Framework does not specify human rights separately, it accepts the international standards determined by major international acts, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. All international documents in this field, according to Regulation 24/99 on applicable law, become a part of Kosovo law.

Chapter 5 offers guarantees for the expression and protection of ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural identities. The Constitutional Framework also offers constitutional guarantees for the participation of all communities in the governmental structures of the PISG. Chapter 6 of the Constitutional Framework arranges the division of responsibilities, while Chapter 7 determines the provisional institutions of Kosovo's self-government. As for responsibilities, three types are mentioned: PISG responsibilities; common responsibilities of international and PISG authorities; and reserved powers for the SRSG.

The laws approved by the Parliament of Kosovo do not enter into force unless they are officially declared valid by the SRSG. The Parliament approves laws and resolutions from its authorities within the PISG, appoints the president of Kosovo, approves or refuses the candidate for prime minister as well as the list of candidates for the government, decides on the motion for a vote of confidence in the government, and so forth. The function of the president of Kosovo is limited by the powers of the SRSG, but according to the Constitutional Framework, the president proposes the prime minister to the Parliament, represents the unity of the people, and guarantees the democratic functioning of provisional institutions, among other functions.

The last elections brought the formation of new ministries that did not exist in the previous government. Thus, the Ministry of Local Governance arose out of the Ministry of Public Services. By the end of December 2005, the frameworks for two more ministries (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Justice) were determined. Within the Supreme Court of Kosovo, a Panel for the Issues of the Constitutional Framework was established, as Kosovo does not have a Constitutional Court. In fact, within the judicial system only the following segments function: district courts, municipal courts, a commercial court, minor offenses courts, and public prosecutors' offices.

By Regulation 28/2000, the SRSG established the institution of the ombudsperson, which is also anticipated by Chapter 10 of the Constitutional Framework. According to this regulation, the ombudsperson has vast authorities, and the only restrictions are those dealing with the peacekeeping forces (KFOR) or any misunderstanding between the international administration and its staff. In the former instance, a prior agreement between both KFOR and the ombudsperson is required. Until the end of 2005, the function of the ombudsperson in Kosovo was carried out successfully and authoritatively by Marek Antonio Nowicki, who at the end of his term suggested that he be replaced by another international.

The Parliament of Kosovo has attempted to expedite the promulgation of laws, along with cooperating with other institutions to create accompanying mechanisms for the implementation of existing legislation. Many laws have been approved, but their implementation either has not started or is not at the desired level. Lack of accompanying mechanisms, supporting legislation, and political will have been key factors in the failure to implement laws.  For example, the Law on Suppression of Corruption was approved and is applicable, but an anticorruption agency has not yet been established. Although the transfer of competences to the local level has continued, there is a lack of clarity in exercising certain powers, which the internationals blame on the unskilled local level and locals blame on uncooperative internationals--in most cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Corruption: 

For the past two years, the Kosovo Parliament promulgated many laws aimed at limiting and fighting corruption and ensuring the accountability of the PISG. The Law on Public Financial Management and Accountability, Law on Suppression of Corruption, and Law on Public Procurement are just a few of the corruption-related laws considered to be compatible with EU standards.

These laws envisaged fighting the kind of corruption that, unfortunately, engulfed the administration during 2005. However, some of the follow-up pieces of legislation that enforce laws on transparency and anticorruption are caught in a serious backlog in the government and Parliament. Moreover, Kosovo has a Law for Access on Official Documents that could help to increase transparency if applied. Though fully approved, the law is practically inapplicable because the government has not yet produced a list of documents that fall within its category of exempt "special interest documents."

Meanwhile, corruption and organized crime, as characterized in UN envoy Kai Eide's report, are the biggest threats to Kosovo's stability and to the sustainability of its institutions. Corruption in Kosovo is widespread at all levels,  but the scope of the problem is difficult to assess since no serious research has been conducted in the field. The government has not taken the necessary administrative and legislative steps to fight and prevent corruption in the provisional institutions. The Law on Suppression of Corruption is in place, but the establishment of an anticorruption agency has been delayed. Civil society has only just recently embarked on the fight against corruption, much like the political opposition. Opposition party leader Hashim Thaci's drive to make anticorruption a key political theme in early 2004 fell flat owing to widespread public perception that PDK ministers themselves were "not angels." 

The process is slow and lacks convincing commitment. Combating serious crime, including organized crime and corruption, has proven to be difficult for the KPS and the justice system. Over the past six years, international police, prosecutors, and intelligence officials have tried--but failed--to go beyond the surface of the corruption problem. The fight is hindered by family or clan solidarity and intimidation of witnesses, law enforcement, and judicial officials.  Language problems for international police and inexperienced local law enforcement institutions have contributed to this failure as well. 

Kosovo is not a party to the main international conventions in anticorruption (that is, the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption and its additional protocol, and the UN Convention Against Corruption). Although a number of these provisions have to some extent been interpreted in the domestic legislation, such as the provisional criminal code of Kosovo and the Law on Suppression of Corruption, more effort is required to launch a cohesive and forceful action against corruption.

There are frequent reports about irregularities in public tendering procedures. Recently, the Law on Public Procurement went under revision. The law reflects EU standards by defining a clear division between executive and regulatory functions, but the amendments have yet to be passed by the Parliament. It is expected that the implementation of the new law, in coordination with the external audit activities of the Office of the Auditor General, will contribute to an improvement in the situation and better use of public funds.

Meanwhile, 2005 was marked by huge scandals at high levels of the Kosovo PISG. Throughout the year, newspapers were full of reports backed by facts and facsimiles in which allegations of corruption, procurement procedures violations, and receiving of gifts more than allowed by law, were made against ministers, the prime minister, and even the presidency. In June 2005, allegations for violations of the Law on Public Financial Management and Accountability by the minister of public services were published in most daily newspapers. These violations were confirmed even by representatives of the SRSG, who said to the media that he would cancel the transfer over one million euro made by the ministry of public services to the presidency of Kosovo as not in accordance with law.  However, this assertion never became a reality. While this issue was simmering, the auditor general declared there would be an audit of the president's office, another promise that did not go beyond words.

Since 2003, a financial investigation unit staffed by Guardia di Finanza officers has conducted financial inspections of government bodies, business enterprises, and organizations receiving public funds and has also launched criminal investigations. In addition, an investigation task force--comprising representatives of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, the European Antifraud Office, and the Guardia di Finanza's financial investigation unit--has received a wide mandate to investigate fraud in the expenditure of public funds. The SRSG is coordinating the implementation of recommendations issued by the task force. Internal investigation services have been set up in the police and the judiciary.

However, in 2005 much of the focus was on keeping the very fragile governing coalition in existence. Most of these measures are moving slowly, while it seems the fastest operators are violators of the law, who are making the most of the lack of a code of ethics and public officials.

From an ethics point of view, the independent media in Kosovo were strictly monitored before and after the Kosovo conflict. The media in general, and especially the newspapers--which do a better job investigating stories--have developed a high sensitivity to confirmed sources. (Editors won't publish a story if it does not have two to three sources that confirm the news.) This has made it difficult for journalists to produce investigative stories because public officials do not feel duty bound to provide responses to journalists' inquiries. The Law for Access on Official Documents is not yet functional. On the other hand, before the conflict the media inherited a much more rigid code of ethics, which made it very hard for journalists to launch a serious public campaign against corruption, kickbacks, and nepotism. A general public indifference toward corruption has taken over as focus centers more around resolving the issue of Kosovo's status.