Kosovo | Freedom House

Nations in Transit

Kosovo

Kosovo

Nations in Transit 2007

2007 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: 

Following the NATO air campaign against Serbian forces in the spring of 1999 ending the 1998–1999 war in Kosovo, the UN Security Council created the UN International Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and charged it with governing and creating substantial autonomy for the territory within Serbia and Montenegro until the area’s status could be resolved. Belgrade-led armed forces were ordered to withdraw from Kosovo, and a NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) arrived to provide peace and security in the region. While the deployment of UNMIK was underway, the Kosovo provisional government, led by former insurgent Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) political leader, Hashim Thaci, established itself at central and municipal levels and filled a vacuum left by the withdrawing Serbian administration.

Beginning in 2000, UNMIK worked with political factions in Kosovo to develop the Constitutional Framework for the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG). The PISG provided substantial autonomy and delineated the powers to be exercised by UNMIK and Kosovar institutions. An outbreak of ethnic-based violence in 2004, though quickly quelled, spurred the international community to accelerate the transfer of powers from UNMIK to Kosovo institutions in the run-up to final status discussions. The transfer would allow domestic authorities to take on more direct responsibility for the protection of minorities, as well as overall governance issues within Kosovo. In 2005, the international community began serious steps to finalize Kosovo’s status. The UN Security Council appointed senior diplomats Martti Ahtisaari and Frank Wisner to lead status negotiations. The Kosovo delegation entered the negotiations with full independence as its platform, while the Serb delegation maintained a platform of less than independence and more than autonomy.

Throughout 2006, Kosovo continued to be governed by UNMIK with the KFOR international military presence. The top priorities of the year consisted of preserving stability, preventing violence, and maintaining peace and political unity in Kosovo. Overshadowing all else, however, was the ongoing process of resolving Kosovo’s final status, which was not completed during the year.

National Democratic Governance. The negotiation process for determining Kosovo’s future status was the main focus for every segment of the society. Administrative time, effort, and energy were oriented toward Vienna and the Unity Team. Kosovo has had a very weak government ever since it was established, but it has managed to be a stable one. The stability of the government does not derive from stable structures, but rather is preserved primarily by pressure from the international community, in particular the U.S. and European Union (EU) diplomatic offices in Pristina, as well as by the occurrence of the status talks. During 2006, personnel changes encouraged more open debate in the Parliament, though not enough, and rarely did members of Parliament (MPs) debate beyond their own political party agendas. Kosovo’s rating for national democratic governance remains unchanged at 5.75.

Electoral Process. The electoral process was effectively frozen in 2006. Municipal elections were postponed owing to the international community’s fear that electoral campaigns would destabilize the final status process as well as relations in the Kosovar political realm and possibly lead to violence. The postponement demonstrated the lack of respect for Kosovo’s electoral institution among decision makers both outside and inside of Kosovo. Though the decision was brought by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Kosovo (SRSG), the two parties in power did not hide their delight in the postponement of the mandate. The Kosovo authorities are acquiring competences in the technical aspects of the elections, but political decisions about whether to hold elections still lie within the UNMIK mandate. Against many calls from civil society groups, Kosovo does not yet have a single electoral law. Kosovo’s electoral process rating remains at 4.75.

Civil Society. Kosovo’s tradition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) extends back to 1989, when the NGO Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms and other political mechanisms created a parallel system in contradiction to the Milosevic regime. However, by 2006 civil society in Kosovo has still not reached the expected level of development. The NGO sector is large and varied, but still depends entirely on foreign funds and is far from independent. Perhaps owing to the large number of NGOs, many have difficulty defining their individual missions. Unfair competition for funds damages the strength and development of the sector and discourages the formation of NGO cooperative networks. Activities that normally should have developed have not, with status talks as the excuse. In exception, some courageous NGOs initiated activities in the anticorruption field. Owing to the lack of significant changes, the rating for civil society remains at 4.25.

Independent Media. The year was marked by the development of the media legal framework. A Media Institute was established and is expected to graduate the first trainees in 2007. However, pressures against the media were very much evident. Journalists were the victims of physical assaults, and the government used advertising revenues to influence the media sector. The media regulatory authority is finally functional, and a multiethnic Press Council with competences to enforce fines for newspapers that violate the law has been established. The Kosovo population still turns to television as its main source of information, while newspaper sales are dismal. Despite the development of a legal framework and the establishment of a Media Institute, attacks on journalists and pressure on the media persisted; therefore Kosovo’s independent media rating remains at 5.50.

Local Democratic Governance. Decentralization is understood as devolution of power from the central to the local authorities. This was the hardest “nut to crack” in negotiations about the future status of Kosovo, and approaches were tailored to accommodate the needs of the Serbian Kosovar minority. The debate is ongoing about what competences should be awarded to the newly established Serbian Kosovar municipalities, and the chief concerns relate to law and order and the security spheres. A local governance legal framework was not developed during 2006, and local governments by year end were still deemed as mere branches of the central government. Because of the status negotiations, the Ministry for Local Governance was more focused on providing input to the status negotiation team than on the needs and issues at the local level. Kosovo’s rating for local democratic governance remains unchanged at 5.50.

Judicial Framework and Independence. The process of promulgating laws in Kosovo has improved, but this could not be said for their implementation. The work of the assembly committees has also strengthened, but the Parliament is still dependent on the will of political parties. Ambiguities in legislative competences pose significant obstacles to the implementation of legislation. The court system has not reached the desired level of development. This is due to the small number of judges, too few trained judges, and insufficient protection for judges and witnesses. Owing to the lack of implementation of the numerous laws recently adopted, Kosovo’s rating for judicial framework and independence remains at 5.75.

Corruption. Corruption in Kosovo is widespread. The Office of the Auditor General has reported massive abuse of public funds in all municipalities, many ministries, and several Kosovo Trust Agency–managed enterprises, such as the airport, the Kosovo Energy Corporation, and the Post and Telecommunications of Kosovo. Measures to curb government corruption were virtually nonexistent in 2006, while civil society has increased direct pressure on political institutions. However, reports show that organized crime as a breeding ground for corruption is still a serious problem in the country. Though the Anticorruption Agency is now established, the lack of political will to fight corruption within the central government and legislature is not conducive to the agency’s effective functioning. Politics in Kosovo remains a business of clans, and political parties are far from operating with transparency. As a result of the lack of political will to fight widespread corruption, Kosovo’s corruption rating remains at 6.00.

Outlook for 2007. The year 2007 is expected to witness the final resolution of the status of Kosovo. It is clear that no agreement will be reached between Kosovo and Serbia. Rather, it is anticipated that the solution will be imposed based on a new UN Security Council resolution, which is expected to be adopted in 2007. UN mediator Martti Ahtisaari will make public his package on the future status of Kosovo following the 2007 elections in Serbia. Kosovo is expected to become independent in some form that retains international supervision but is no longer governed directly by UNMIK.

The resolution of Kosovo’s status, however, is not going to solve the country’s many accumulated problems and social tensions, which might be the biggest threats to its stability. An agreement on creating a broader coalition government composed of the four largest Kosovo Albanian parties may be reached with international support. But even if this broader government coalition is created, it will not be able to bring about notable changes in the economy or other important sectors. This is because the 2007 elections will likely be focused on the merits of Kosovo’s status resolution, which could polarize the Albanian Kosovar society. Additionally, the parties outside the Unity Team might run a campaign against the status settlement, particularly the Team’s plan for decentralization.

National Democratic Governance: 

UN envoy Kai Eide’s report to the UN Security Council in May 2005 was critical of Kosovo’s governing institutions. Gradual steps are addressing the shortcomings. During 2006, the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Justice were created. The governing coalition LDK-AAK nominated Fatmir Regjepi (from the LDK) for interior minister and Jonuz Salihaj (from the AAK) for justice minister. During the year the two new ministries became functional, but it is too early to judge their effectiveness. Following allegations of corruption and mismanagement, Slavisa Petkovic from the Ministry of Returns and Communities was forced out of office in late November 2006. The governing coalition held together throughout the year, though many had anticipated that it would be a short-lived union. President and LDK party leader Ibrahim Rugova’s death from lung cancer on January 21, 2006 and the subsequent changes in Parliament and the government, have not caused any deep political crises that would jeopardize the coalition.

Parliamentary life in 2006 was more dynamic, advanced, and effective than in previous years, thanks to increased debate from the opposition, the replacement of the Speaker of the Parliament, and international influences. The opposition helped to shift the political debate from political parties to institutions. However, it did not fully tap its potential in this regard (a reflection of the number of opposition MPs) and justified its relative reticence on the status talks, creating a perception that stirring a government crisis could jeopardize the negotiations process.

The Kosovo Assembly has 120 seats, of which 100 are directly elected by voters. Ten seats are reserved for representatives of the Serbian Kosovar community, and the remaining 10 are shared among other population groups (4 for the Roma Kosovar, Ashkali Kosovar, and Egyptian Kosovar communities; 3 for the Bosniac Kosovar community; 2 for the Turkish Kosovar community; and 1 for the Gorani Kosovar community). The international community holds as a key demand in resolving final status, that the Kosovo institutions go beyond lip service and provide the Serbian Kosovar community with assurances that their rights as minorities will be protected.1

After the death of Rugova, the presidency fell to (then) Speaker Daci for a short period (January 21–February 11, 2006) and then to Fatmir Sejdiu. Under President Sejdiu, there were numerous personnel changes in institutions, and former Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi was forced to resign on March 1, 2006, following pressure from the coalition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK). Former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) military official Agim Çeku became the new prime minister, and his nomination and election were endorsed by Ramush Haradinaj (whose AAK party Çeku joined). The Parliament voted-in Çeku’s government on March 10, 2006. It largely resembled the previous government, with only Deputy Prime Minister Adem Salihaj being replaced by Minister for Local Governance Lutfi Haziri.

The forced resignation of Parliament Speaker Nexhat Daci on March 10 ended a period of strained relations and power struggles: within Daci’s own Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) party and among key party figures, as well as interactions with international bodies. Despite holding the Speaker position for several years, Daci failed to demonstrate an understanding of the politically interdependent posi-tion of Kosovo in the region or show a capacity for negotiating the various levels of power among the political parties, regional governments, and international offices.

Also following Rugova’s death, leadership within the LDK changed drama-tically. The LDK finished party elections at all levels, but the electoral process was tumultuous and periodically violent. It ended on December 9, 2006 with the interruption of the election council after the voting results were announced. Fatmir Sejdiu, who was previously LDK general secretary for several years, and then Parliament Speaker Nexhat Daci declared themselves candidates to fill the LDK’s leadership vacuum. Other potential candidates saw their chances as slim against Sejdiu and Daci. Sejdiu won by a narrow margin and Daci left the council after the results were reported but his supporters remained and continued to take part. When Daci’s supporters were sidelined in a list Sejdiu proposed to the council of candidates for the party presidency (left vacant following Rugova’s death), they requested changes to the list. Sejdiu continued with the council and attempted to have his list formally approved. Seeing that the list and council were nearing final phase without their requested adjustments, Daci’s supporters provoked conflict that resulted in physical blows between the two sides and necessitated police intervention.

Because Daci continued to oppose the proposed list, when the list was eventually accepted by the party, some observers thought the event marked the near end of Daci’s participation in the LDK. However, Daci remained an LDK member of Parliament through 2006 with the support of six other MPs. Daci’s support of the government is critical because without him and the six MPs who support him, the government would lose its parliamentary majority. Nevertheless, Daci has signaled in a press conference that he would withdraw his support if the status package is “not in line with the will of the people,” which was reported by several media outlets in Kosovo. This effectively gives Daci the opportunity to interpret any proposed status settlement to his political benefit.

A long-standing LDK activist, Kole Berisha, replaced Daci as Parliament Speaker on March 10, 2006. Through the year, he proved to be comparatively more open, cooperative, and gentle in the exercise of the office’s functions. Without delay, Berisha proposed a broad package of reforms to the assembly, all of which were approved during the parliamentary session in early June 2006. All parliamentary members welcomed the reform package, especially measures relating to the holding of regular sessions and question-and-answer sessions, which previously had been largely ignored. The assembly has taken a more functional and dynamic direction under Berisha, leading to unprecedented initiatives in establishing government oversight.

During 2006, the country continued to experience a deep economic crisis, with high unemployment, evident poverty among the population (almost half, based on World Bank reports), difficult social conditions, and other important challenges to stability such as the extreme lack of power supplies, unresolved status of pensioners, and a slow privatization process. Kosovo’s largest opposition political party, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), which has created something of a shadow government, and the print media expressed their criticism of the new government. Like the previous government, the current government did not manage to exercise its power in the country’s northern territory, which includes North Mitrovica and the municipalities of Zvecan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavic. Government institutions also failed to expand their power in areas populated by Serbian Kosovars. It is estimated that of the more than 100,000 Serbian Kosovars living in Kosovo, only about one-third live in the northern part Serbian Kosovar enclave.

At a minimum, the government has failed to decrease Belgrade’s influence over the Serbian Kosovar population in Kosovo, which further disconnected the links between the Serbian Kosovar community and the PISG in Kosovo. In March 2006, the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija invited Serbian Kosovars to reject their education and health contracts with the PISG, offering close to €300 (US$408) more than what the PISG provided from the Kosovo budget; but the influence is not always a matter of money.

During the year, PDK leader Hashim Thaci frequently accused the government of being run by “parapolitics,” and some government ministers were hit with charges of corruption and crime. On December 21, 2006, two governing coalition officials were arrested after police found a minibus packed with heavy weapons and ammunition. The haul included a 12.7-mm anti-aircraft gun and more than 100 rocket-propelled grenades. The cache, found in the Drenica region village of Stutica in central Kosovo, was the largest in the country since the 1998–1999 war and the deployment of NATO peacekeepers. Three men were arrested, including two advisers to the minister of labor and social welfare and a member of the presidency of the AAK, the smaller party in the governing coalition. It is clear that current government ministers are ruled by their parties and that the coalition’s most effective mentor and “fixer” is Ramush Haradinaj, leader of the AAK.2

In general, Kosovo’s current political stability should be attributed to the “consensus” reached by the four biggest political parties and to the pressure from the international community. This consensus suggests that all energies are being directed toward negotiations and the status determination. The Unity Team, though not very open to the public, has shown credibility and flexibility during status talks in Vienna but nevertheless has been criticized in the Kosovo Parliament. The team members did not initially communicate much with the public, but late in 2006, leaders Hashim Thaci and President Sejdiu began visiting municipalities on the suggestion of Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Steven Schook and the head of the U.S. office, Tina Kaidanow. Notable for being the most effective in communicating with the public and Kosovo’s various ethnic communities during the year, was MP Veton Surroi, leader of the Reformist Party.

 

Spotlight on Status Talks

During 2006, Kosovo—led by a five-member negotiating team known as the Unity Team—and Serbia engaged in a series of talks through UN-brokered international mediation in Vienna. The Unity Team was proposed by former President Ibrahim Rugova. Its first composition was as follows: Ibrahim Rugova (president), Bajram Kosumi (prime minister), Nexhat Daci (speaker of the Parliament), Hashim Thaci (leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo), and Veton Surroi (leader of the Ora political party). The composition changed during the year following Rugova’s death. Newly-elected President Fatmir Sejdiu replaced him; Agim Çeku became the prime minister and replaced Bajram Kosumi; Kole Berisha became the speaker of the Parliament and replaced Nexhat Daci. By year’s end, the sides had not managed to reach an agreement on Kosovo’s final status.

The first round of talks, held in February, addressed the basic municipal powers in the health, education, cultural, judicial, police, and social welfare fields. Though the sides reached some agreement, they disagreed over the level of autonomy municipalities should exercise in their authority over these spheres. The second round of talks, held in March, addressed municipal finance, inter-municipal cooperation, and Serbian Kosovo-majority municipality cooperation with Belgrade.

The third round of talks was held in April, where a document prepared by the UN Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for the Future Status Process for Kosovo3 was discussed that covered decentralization principles, powers of the municipalities, and other issues that the two sides met with resolutely opposite stances.

The fourth through sixth rounds were held in May. The fourth took up the discussion of creating new municipalities and adjusting the borders of municipalities with Serbian Kosovo majorities. In this round additional agreement was reached on criteria for the creation of new municipalities, addressing the needs of Albanian Kosovar, Serbian Kosovar, Gora Kosovar, Roma Kosovar, and other minority communities. The fifth round discussed protecting cultural heritage. The Kosovar side argued that the protection of places of worship and cultural heritage establishments should not be carried out with special measures or linked to the general decentralization plan. The Serbian delegation asked for this issue, among others, to be partly resolved by the decentralization plan. The sixth round discussed the economy, privatization, and Kosovo debts. Although the fourth round introduced criteria for minority communities, minority rights were first discussed in the August round of talks.

It was widely expected that Kosovo’s status would be settled by the end of 2006. But the approval of the Serbian Constitution and announcement of new elections in Serbia led to a consensus for postponing the Kosovo final status proposal until after the elections in Serbia. However, this delay is not expected to change the platforms of either Kosovar or Serbian parties; neither is it anticipated that a status agreement will be reached based on the Vienna talks. By the end of 2006, it was clear that the status settlement will be an imposed solution with some form of independence but also with an international presence remaining in Kosovo.

Electoral Process: 

All of the elections held through 2006 in Kosovo were organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Kosovo does not have a single election law, and the principles entrenched in UNMIK’s Constitutional Framework do not provide clear deadlines for elections. Even the OSCE admits that Kosovo will need a comprehensive legal framework for elections, one that not only takes into account legal developments since 1999, but also evolves with the new political circumstances and provisions of the eventual status settlement. Whatever legal framework is adopted, it should ensure that the first elections following the status settlement represent a first step in the right direction for Kosovo.4

During 2006, significant efforts were made toward building Kosovo’s capacities for local elections, and local election institutions continue to be empowered to organize elections independently. The most important part of that process was the transfer of know-how. Nonetheless, the responsibility for elections is still reserved for the UN interim administration in Kosovo, as delegated to the OSCE. This requires the mission to proactively monitor the preparation and conduct of elections and intervene as necessary to prevent or remedy any potential misconduct or deviation from electoral rules.5 The OSCE and UNMIK still maintain the voters list, manage political party registration, and draft legislation on elections. According to the OSCE, local capacities have been created to carry out fair elections, but this will be hard to assess until local authorities actually organize and hold local elections. The next elections to be organized in the country will be fully administered by local election institutions.

Four elections have taken place in post-conflict 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 Serbian Kosovars to participate in the elections, directly opposing the Serbian government, the Orthodox Church, and most Serbian Kosovar politicians, who called for a boycott.

The parliamentary elections that had been scheduled to take place in Kosovo in fall 2006 were postponed for at least a year by SRSG Soren Jessen Petersen. Representatives of the ruling LDK and AAK saluted Petersen’s decision and brushed off objections raised by civil society that the will of Kosovo citizens was being ignored, citing as an excuse the negotiations over Kosovo’s status.6 The Reformist Party made serious objections to the postponement. PDK leader Hashim Thaci showed resistance only after the decision was reached but was calmed with an offer to join the negotiation team on the country’s future status. Opposition parties raised concerns over the legitimacy of elected institutions in Kosovo in the aftermath of Rugova’s death, subsequent significant changes in the government, as well as the indictment of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague for war crimes, which occurred at the end of 2004.

In administering both central and local elections, the OSCE has used a proportional system with closed lists. The OSCE insists that the proportional closed-list system maintains sufficient participation of women in politics, and by contrast, that open lists cause confusion among the voters and are more costly. In adherence with the current law, 30 percent of political party candidates in all elections must be women, and the proportional representation system using closed party lists has indeed facilitated women’s representation in Parliament, where 28 percent of the MPs are women holding 34 out of 120 seats. Nevertheless, the system has been criticized.

Civil society and small political parties, such as Reformist Ora, have been the most vocal in calling for changes to the electoral law. They have raised concerns over the past few years that the current closed-list-one-electoral-zone system is undemocratic on the basis that it narrows the choices of Kosovo citizens to three or four significant political parties. Consensus is building in support of establishing a single election 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.7

Negotiations are ongoing among the Election Forum—composed of 10 local Central Election Commission members, 1 member from the Ministry for Local Governance, and 4 members from the civil society sector—the OSCE and UNMIK. Like the decision to postpone parliamentary elections, which was made without much public consultation, the very vocal request by civil society to replace the closed-list system with a more democratic form of voting, has fallen largely on deaf ears.

Civil Society: 

The development of civil society in Kosovo occurred in four phases. The first phase began in 1989 when two organizations, the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF) and the Mother Teresa charitable society, were established and other political mechanisms created a parallel system in contradiction to the Milosevic regime. Also at that time, the organization of independent trade unions began. Almost all the NGOs at that time dealt with the protection of human rights or humanitarian activities, and all were opponents of the regime. The second phase began in 1995 with the appearance of so-called think tank organizations such as Riinvest and the Kosova Action for Civic Initiatives, among others. Until the end of 1998, only a small number of organizations existed in Kosovo, but notable for their success and efficiency in the scope of their activities. The post-conflict third phase in NGO development in Kosovo—also called “the emergency phase”—was distinguished by the creation of a large donor market numbering around 500 donors in 1999 by some estimates. The fourth and current phase is known as “the mushroom phase” because of the rapidity with which organizations have appeared. In general, the procedure for NGO registration is easy and takes place in the Ministry of Public Services. By 2006, according to the Ministry’s NGO register, the number of organizations exceeded 3,000. The number of active groups, however, is considerably smaller.

Despite the sector’s plurality, a developmental lag exists in the sector’s sustainability, stability, independence, and activities. Civil society in Kosovo can still be characterized as driven by income opportunity rather than a mission for societal change. A small number of NGOs operate on the basis of a clearly defined mission, but the majority of groups still operate “from project to project.”8 This means that most act according to the program orientation of donors. Some claim to address democratization, women’s rights, or the advancement of minority positions, but the profiles of most are rather generalized. A notable lack of transparent management of funds indicates that many organizations have yet to reach a sufficient level of professionalism among staff. Additionally, a large number of NGOs have not yet managed to create real governing structures or functioning boards, although this is a legal obligation. The possibilities for generating funds from local sources are quite small, considering the country’s economic circumstances in general, and the number of external donors is declining. This has led to competition in fund-raising and a decline in cooperation and networking among NGOs.

The year 2006 presented other evidence that Kosovo’s civil society sector has not yet reached maturity. In a mature civil society, status talks should have had the effect of intensifying NGO activities in various spheres: demanding transparency in the negotiation process (which has largely taken place away from public view), fighting corruption, and advocating for transparency in governance at all levels. Although the CDHRF, Kosovo Women’s Network, the Kosova Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED), and other groups, continued to be active in their respective fields, the norm in Kosovo during 2006 was that civil society was caught in a trap by the status negotiation process. NGOs dealing with so-called citizen activism, advocacy NGOs, and watchdog organizations did not conduct any salient activity, apart from some superficial monitoring of institutions or publishing of reports with negligible audience impact. As explanation for the “wait and see” approach to the status issue, arguments were heard during the year that so-called “hot activities” (such as anticorruption efforts) should not be conducted because they might imperil the status negotiation process. Contributing factors to this approach include donor influence, as well as self-censorship.

The Organization for Democracy, Anticorruption and Dignity, Rise Up! (Çohu!) conducted some anticorruption activities during 2006 which stirred reactions from government representatives. In December, Çohu! awarded the government with the “corruption championship cup”, an original creation which the organization placed in front of the prime minister’s office building. Prime Minister Çeku reacted to the award by declaring the stunt “unserious” and “untrue”. Çeku’s reaction is characteristic of the perception held within government institutions regarding NGOs and civil society functioning in general.

NGOs have mostly been free of any obstacles from government institutions, excluding interventions against the Vetëvendosje (Self-Determination) movement. Despite arrests, beating of activists, and censure, the Vetëvendosje movement, led by Albin Kurti, continued its characteristically provocative activities, such as refusing to recognize the Unity Team or UNMIK, and in May 2006 calling for Kosovar citizens to boycott products from Serbia. The demonstration organized by Vetëvendosje on November 11 in Pristina showed that this movement has the capacity to mobilize citizens, which is a capacity that even the political parties lack. Demonstrators threw bottles and stones at the buildings of the Kosovo provisional Parliament and the UN headquarters but were dispersed by the use of tear gas. It is difficult to put this movement into any specific category of civil society organization, as it remains unique in the way it is organized (unregistered), conducts activities, and pursues membership. Its leaders claim that the movement does not rely on donor funds and enjoys voluntary popular support.

Although there are no formal studies about public perception of the NGO sector in Kosovo, there is also no evidence to indicate that 2006 registered any significant changes. Anecdotal evidence indicates the public perception of NGOs as one of apathy, disinterest, and even distrust. NGOs do not yet possess the necessary skills to promote their work or effectively approach the media. Similarly, media do not yet accurately or fully report the importance of the civil sector in society.

Trade unions in Kosovo have remained at the same level of organization for many years and serve more as observers of the country’s privatization process, although there are trade union representatives in the Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA). Only the Education Trade Union is registered as an NGO. The new rector of the public university, Enver Hasani, has shown decisiveness in deepening the reform of this public institution, which is the largest center of higher education in Kosovo. However, there has been a decline in the authority of the public university in favor of a growing number of private educational institutions.

Humanitarian activities sponsored by religious organizations have continued alongside their proselytizing efforts. The Serb Orthodox Church has an influence on public life, while different sects of various religions also conduct activities, with little support from the public. The Wahhabi movement has grown in Kosovo as a result of high unemployment and financial benefits for those who convert to its model of Islam.

Independent Media: 

Despite significant improvements made in the media regulatory framework during 2006, journalists in Kosovo continued to be victims of the arbitrary use of force by those in power, even from high officials, such as the heads of municipality executives. The use of force against journalists declined slightly in 2006, as the previous year was an unusually tragic time for Kosovo journalism, with some cases ending in fatalities.9 In December 2005, body guards and friends of Enver Muja, Gnjilane municipality executive, attacked local television journalists. According to police reports, they injured one journalist and broke a television camera. Although thirteen journalists resigned and accused their employer of succumbing to pressure from the municipality by blocking a story about misuse of funds, the incident went unpunished in 2006. In January 2006 Muja pushed a female journalist down a flight of stairs.10 This case, like most violations against journalists, did not gain any significant public or judicial attention except for a reaction from the Association of Professional Journalists of Kosovo (APJK).

In November, unknown assailants attacked reporter Bujar Desku at his desk at the daily newspaper Lajm Ekskluzive just a few days after he reported that countrywide operations of a mobile telephone provider were illegal.11 During the year, there were also cases of force used against journalists by Kosovo police officers. Enis Veliu, a reporter for Lajm Ekskluzive covering the Kosovo Assembly, was punched in the face by a Kosovo Police Service (KPS) officer in September. And in October, Lorik Pustina, editor of the daily newspaper Express, while covering the police and judiciary, was jailed for a night without being given any explicit reason.12

Clearly some important issues need to be addressed and Kosovo is taking steps toward media reform. The 2005 Law on the Independent Media Commission established an independent media regulator, and has since appointed the Council of the Independent Media Commission. The establishment of a multiethnic Press Council, comprising most of Kosovo’s editors in chief, has added an important instrument of self-regulation to Kosovo’s media framework. The Council is in charge of print media, has the right to impose sanctions, and can order media to print retractions or to take other remedial action.

However, the laws that protect and provide freedom of information are not yet functional, leaving these rights in question. In May, the APJK staged a street protest against an administrative order related to the Law on Access to Official Documents that gives overly broad competences to officials when deciding whether documents are to be made public. The order also sets no deadlines for responses to requests for information if they fall within the so-called unusual cases.13

Another common tool used by the government to pressure media is to withdraw advertising from newspapers that take a critical tone. This is an effective strategy in Kosovo’s poorly developed economy and private advertising market, where state and local administration tenders and job postings 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. The total readership of daily newspapers in Kosovo amounts to no more than 15,000 copies. Even though the print media remain the only sources of investigative journalism, the majority of the Kosovo population turns to the country’s three national television stations for information.14

In July, the Council of the Independent Media Commission became fully functional after the assembly appointed a representative to the council. An acting temporary media commissioner was appointed chief executive. A new law governing the public broadcaster, Radio Television of Kosovo, was enacted in April 2006. Implementation of the law in line with European practices will be crucial to help public service broadcasting become fully independent.

The first class of the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communication began studies in the academic year 2005–2006; the first trainee graduations are expected to take place in 2007. The institute was founded in October 2005 (with funding from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and aims to build the professional capacity of the media sector through mid-career training. The recruitment procedure for the director’s post is currently under way, and the institute is expected to be fully operational by the beginning of 2007. Although there were no attempts to restrict access to or use of the Internet, a November poll showed that 19 percent of Kosovars used the Internet daily, according to the U.S. Department of State 2006 Country Report on Human Rights Practices. However, Internet users are concentrated in towns, as much of the rural population lacks suitable infrastructure and sufficient electrical energy supplies.

Local Democratic Governance: 

Local governance in Kosovo remains weak and lacks independence from the central government. All decision making on local reforms takes place at the central level, conducted mainly by UNMIK and the Kosovo government. To a considerable degree, local governments have been passive actors in the reform process since the end of the conflict.

The process of local governance reform became particularly centralized with the start of negotiations on the future status of Kosovo. With the justification that the decentralization process needed to be kept secret, the Kosovo negotiating team created a gap in communication between the central and local governments throughout 2006. This philosophy was transferred to the local governments, whose accountability toward the communities they serve went from bad to worse. Because local government autonomy was not entrenched in the legal framework, Kosovo municipalities showed more accountability to the Kosovo government than to their communities. Likewise, the country’s legal framework does not grant local governments an entrenched independence.

Though the decentralization of power from the central to the municipal level was the main topic in the status negotiations, local governments have had almost no say in this process. In general, those who made decisions about the devolution of power to the local level did so without any consultation with local stakeholders in a process that was criticized as nontransparent. Because the decentralization concept was tailored to provide comfort to the Serbian Kosovars in exchange for their participation in Kosovo institutions after more than two years of boycott, it is considered to be a political and politicized process rather than one responding to the local needs for development and security. Specialists claim that the reform of local government has been reduced to a simple devolution of powers within the scope of decentralization.15

Decentralization proved a difficult aspect to resolve in the Vienna talks, and it was the first issue that convinced the mediators that a solution on Kosovo’s status would have to be imposed. In February 2006, the mediators failed to reconcile the Kosovar and Serbian sides over the issue of local government reforms, particularly over granting extra authority to Serbian Kosovar communities on justice and police issues. The latter proved to be one of the most contentious issues in the decentralization talks, in addition to the number of municipalities and the territory each would encompass. The Serbian and Kosovo sides also held antagonistic stances regarding timing, with the Serbian side asking that decentralization begin as soon as possible, while the Kosovo representatives insisted this process should occur only after the determination of Kosovo’s status.

The Serbian side advocated cultural autonomy and communal independence in health care, education, courts, police, and the like, while the Albanian Kosovars claimed that these problems should be solved by the respective Ministry for Local Governance, without any parallel decentralized administrations. The Albanian Kosovars appeared to show willingness in granting the Serbs more autonomy in health care and education, but hesitated to do so when it came to security issues, such as courts and police. However, they agreed that the ethnic composition of Kosovo’s police should be equivalent to the ethnic composition of the regional population.16

Three issues related to decentralization are particularly sensitive: community financing, intercommunal cooperation, and the ties between Serbian Kosovar communities and Serbia. Serbians demanded that Serbian Kosovar communities in Kosovo be allowed to cooperate tightly with one another and to be in direct contact with Serbia, in what have become known as horizontal ties and vertical ties, respectively. Intercommunal (horizontal) ties could be formalized through such organizations as intercommunal committees on health care, social security, and so forth.

The Albanian Kosovars objected that such committees could be politicized and could lead to the division of Kosovo into separate Albanian and Serbian entities, fearing a scenario reminiscent of Bosnia. Instead they argued for informal ties and against a third administrative level between the central and communal authorities. The Serbs suggested that the Serbian Kosovar communities be financed from local tax revenues and from Serbia’s national budget, while the Albanian Kosovars said that such funding, like any “foreign aid,” can enter Kosovo only through its central government. Since no definite agreement was reached on these issues, an imposed solution is expected to be presented by Martti Ahtisaari, the UN status talks mediator, before the Security Council in January 2007.

The status talks drained the energy of Kosovo institutions in 2006; thus the Ministry for Local Governance was turned into a kind of advisory office for the Kosovo negotiating team, with its respective minister involved at the first round of Vienna talks. Since the latest changes in the central government, Minister Lutfi Haziri was also appointed deputy prime minister. In this way, the Ministry for Local Governance, while trying to respond to the Vienna negotiating team, was almost nonexistent as a source of support to local governments in the institution-building process. On the other hand, the ministry interfered conspicuously in the decisions of local governments.

As for the legal framework governing politics at the municipal level, the situation did not change in 2006. UNMIK regulations still provide the overall legal framework for municipalities. However, with status negotiations still ongoing, the municipalities have been largely ignored by the central level, and their independence has been jeopardized in the decentralization talks—an absurd contradiction given that the decentralization process is meant to grant powers to the local level.

Judicial Framework and Independence: 

The judicial system in Kosovo is still in the establishment phase. Even though advances have been recorded, many deficiencies remain. Beginning with the judicial framework, as of 2006, Kosovo still had no Constitution but, rather, a Constitutional Framework adopted by the UNMIK administration. The framework is based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and aims to establish a Kosovo Provisional Self-Governance, which would serve to develop judicial institutions, among other things to prepare Kosovo for the final resolution of its status.

When exercising their duties, Kosovo institutions and authorities are obliged to respect three main principles recognized in the Constitutional Framework: respect for UN Resolution 1244; respect for the rule of law, human rights and freedoms, democratic principles, and reconciliation; and respect for the division of legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

The Constitutional Framework determines three categories of competences that are exercised in Kosovo: responsibilities of the PISG, joint responsibilities of the PISG and international authorities, and reserved responsibilities for the SRSG. Often this division of competences and responsibilities has created ambiguities as well as alibis and excuses for all sides.

The Constitutional Framework observes international standards on human rights, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights up to the Framework of the Council of Europe for Minority Protection. These international judicial acts, according to UNMIK Regulation 24/99 on applicable law, must be implemented directly by Kosovo institutions. The Constitutional Framework offers specific protections for minorities, which many theoreticians consider “positive discrimination.” According to the framework, minorities have the right to use their own language and symbols, establish their own associations, protect their cultural and religious monuments, and have equal employment rights, among other guarantees.

The judicial system of Kosovo is still crippled and ineffective and far from independent. A Kosovo prosecutor, who spoke on condition of confidentiality with this report author, indicated some of the causes of corruption in the judicial system of Kosovo: the number of judges and prosecutors is small compared with caseloads; the working environment for judges and prosecutors is quite unfavorable; the monitoring system of courts is not clear; the personal safety of judges and prosecutors is low; the salaries of judges and prosecutors in Kosovo are the lowest in the region. The Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) and the Ministry of Justice have made efforts to improve the system, though reforms to framework have yet to yield real results in practice. Ambiguities in competences remain a chief obstacle to the proper development of the judicial system. There is still no equality in the process of power division among legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

During 2006, the ombudsperson mandate was transferred from the international to the local authorities. This was done under UNMIK Regulation 2006/6, but the Kosovo Parliament did not manage to select the ombudsperson during the year. The Parliament considered three candidates but none received the necessary number of votes, therefore the procedure is expected to be repeated in early 2007.

Since March 13, 2003, Kosovo has been committed to the accompanying mechanism for stabilization and association in the EU. Based on fulfilling these standards, the promulgation of laws has accelerated during the last two years.

The KJC, which was established by UNMIK Regulation 2005/52, began work shortly after its inaugural meeting in April 2006. The council is a professional body under the authority of the SRSG and is the successor to the Kosovo Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. In addition to appointing judges, lay judges, and prosecutors, and implementing disciplinary measures for judicial misconduct, the KJC eventually will assume additional responsibilities related to court administration. The council is composed of Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, judges and nonjudges. During its first year of operation, two international judges also were part of the council.

The judicial system of Kosovo recognizes the following types of courts: minor offense courts, municipal courts, district courts, commercial courts, and the Supreme Court of Kosovo. Kosovo does not have a Constitutional Court, but according to the Constitutional Framework, there is a special panel within the Supreme Court that deals with issues regarding the Constitutional Framework.

The effectiveness of the courts should not only be measured by the number of solved cases; it should also be measured by the quality of the judgments. By both accounts, a lot of work remains to make Kosovo’s judicial system fully independent and functional.

Despite the small number of judges, President Regjep Haxhimusa of the KJC said in a December 2006 press conference that the courts had been effective. During the first nine months of the year, 185,919 cases had been settled of the 335,889 log awaiting trial—approximately 55 percent. According to Haxhimusa, the weakest aspect of the Kosovo judicial system is the lack of clear deadlines when court cases start and end, which makes for exceedingly long proceedings and a backlog of cases, particularly in civil disputes. As an example, the daily Koha Ditore reported Haxhimusa’s statement that, “The Supreme Court has 3 criminal cases and 15 civil cases waiting to be solved that are older than 2006.”

Various independent monitors of the Kosovo courts, statements by lawyers, and articles published in Kosovo newspapers indicate court violations of domestic law and international human rights standards occur. The OSCE, in its December 2006 report on monitoring the Kosovo courts, highlighted these specific problems: failure to adequately protect witnesses and witness intimidation; failure to appropriately handle juveniles who are charged with crimes; in minor offences, filing charges and issuing decisions that are of poor quality and often not well reasoned; and failing to assign individual responsibility by using collective punishment. In a case against activists of the Vetëvendosja movement for a protest in which they blocked the main entrance of the main UN residence, the courts handed down the same sentence to nine persons. The OSCE criticized the justification for the decision in which the courts talked about “the behavior of the accused with a collective sense, without any reference to the acts and the level of responsibility for each accused person.”17

Even if evaluated within the overall context of the country’s current socioeconomic and political movements, Kosovo judicial system has not yet reached a needed level of effectiveness and quality. Many of the occurrences are inconsistent with the law on the books and court decisions. For example, there are frequent instances where the same verdict and justification is announced in different cases with different defendants. Judges issue almost the same verdict no matter the circumstances of the case, in a form of “cut-and-paste” justice.

Corruption: 

UN envoy Kai Eide’s 2005 report on Kosovo characterized corruption and organized crime as the biggest threats to the country’s stability and the sustainability of its institutions. According to the report, corruption is widespread at all levels.18 There was little evidence in 2006 to indicate that anything improved and the year was again filled with media reports on corruption in Kosovo.

The European Commission stressed in its 2006 Progress Report that the most challenging problem for Kosovo, besides its status resolution, is organized crime. Criminal networks extend into various socioeconomic sectors and into politics.19 Finding highly skilled police personnel remains a major challenge. Legislation is still lacking to keep the identity of informants confidential in court, an obstacle in the fight against organized crime. The opposition, too, claimed that extra-institutional structures make the real decisions in Kosovo, not the Kosovo government or Parliament.20

Though high-level officials have allegedly misused their public offices to benefit themselves or special interest groups, the new government led by Agim Çeku did not undertake substantial steps against corruption and organized crime during the year. In July, The Organization for Democracy, Anticorruption and Dignity, Rise Up! (Çohu!) published a report accusing the Çeku government of corruption and nepotism. During 2006, a growing Anticorruption Coalition of NGOs, led by Çohu!, worked to combat public and private sector corruption in Kosovo. While not politically motivated, this network of NGOs from various municipalities carried out some aggressive campaigns against corruption and organized crime and aimed to inform citizens about the risks presented by corrupt political structures. In March, Çohu! spoke out for the first time about the misuse of power by former Prime Minister Haradinaj, who diverted public funds into his Tribunal defense fund for The Hague.21 In May, the Coalition began a public action with a poster campaign that contained illustrations of patriotic demagoguery being used to cover up corruption in a quasi-mobster manner of governance.

Within the reserved competences of UNMIK the Office of the Auditor General in Kosovo (OAG) has been tasked with promoting high standards of transparency, accountability, and integrity in the financial management and public administration in Kosovo. The OAG conducted an annual series of audits during 2006, including ministries, municipalities and the central budget. In most cases, the findings showed pervasive violations and misconduct in almost all procurements.22 Additionally, throughout the year daily newspapers reported suspected cases of corruption in which high officials were involved. One of the most outstanding cases accused Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Governance Lutfi Haziri of setting a lower price for the privatization of the socially-owned Jugoterm factory (a heating equipment producer in Ferizaj/Urosecac) and illegally receiving shares within the winning consortiums.23 The board of the KTA, which deals with the privatization of state-owned companies, met in December 2006 to decide whether the KTA internal audit reports contained sufficient facts to prove that the October privatization of Jugoterm was a setup. However, the minister of economy and minister of trade and industry, both members of the KTA board, resisted a decision to re-tender the company.24

Allegations that members of the international and local administrations cooperate in corruption were widespread during 2006. The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report on Pristina Airport revealed 266 counts of suspected violations among the management. The OIOS report says that the airport was unsupervised by UNMIK and managed without any internal control. Moreover, it was concluded that the situation was exploited by the airport management staff to misuse public funds.

Although local media covered the UN report on the airport irregularities in detail, former SRSG Jessen Petersen did not comment until the report became a scandal in the international media. He contested most of the report’s recommendations for disciplinary measures on the basis that the conditions were difficult to meet in the peacekeeping mission. He also denied that corruption was a broad and all-encompassing phenomenon at the airport. Immediately after Reuters published the OIOS report, the head of UNMIK reacted by calling the document—which some had hoped might open the door to fighting corruption in public enterprises—unfounded.25

The executive and judicial branches of power were sluggish but slightly more active than the Kosovo Parliament which was largely inert during 2006 in the fight against corruption. A handful of “small fish” corruption cases were initiated, but despite immense evidence produced by independent audits, the government resisted taking any steps against high officials who were reportedly linked to corruption. Responding to pressure from the press, the Kosovo government decided in November to dismiss Minister of Returns and Communities Slavisa Petkovic, the only Serb minister in the government, on allegations of corruption.

The Kosovo Anticorruption Agency (ACA) became functional on July 17, 2006. Its director, Hasan Preteni, a former military official and new to the field of fighting corruption, quickly found himself within the highly complicated maze of special interests and political groups that have developed in Kosovo institutions since the conflict. Public prosecutor and ACA Chairman Besim Kelmendi stated that without a law on protection of witnesses, information that would be key to the fight against corruption is being withheld from his colleagues in the Kosovo courts.

Notes: 

1

Between June and December 1999, thousands of Serbian Kosovars fled Kosovo, fearing retaliation from returning Albanian Kosovars. Those Serbian kosovars who remained in Kosovo were subject to systematic attacks and intimidation, which eventually forced them to leave the territory or to concentrate in Serbian Kosovar-dominated enclaves protected by the KFOR. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, approximately 900 Serbian Kosovars, Roma Kosovars, and other minorities are reported to have been killed or gone missing from January 1999 to April 2001.

2 See Crisis Group Europe Report No. 163, Kosovo After Haradinaj, 26 May 2005

3 The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for the future status process for Kosovo has been established in Vienna to support the activities of Martti Ahtisaari, the secretary general’s special envoy.

4 Remarks of Head of Mission Werner Wnendt, OSCE, 5 June 2006, “The Kosovo Legislation for Elections: Who? What? When? How?”

5 See http://www.osce.org/kosovo/13208.html

6 “You can not hold two watermelons at the same time,” said Kosovo Assembly Speaker Kole Berisha in a press conference in September, referring to the elections and negotiations, using an Albanian idiom

7 “Reform Coalition Demands Democracy in Kosovo,” Advocacy 2, no. 4 (April 2004), www.advocacy-center.org/Newsletters/0404special1%edition_eng.pdf.

8 The author of the work proves this statement from the position of a local grant maker. During many direct contacts with the organization leaders on many occasions, he had asked them about the mission of their organizations. In most cases their response was: “Tell us about the program orientations of the foundation and we shall prepare our projects immediately according to your requests.” The author of the work, again from the same position during the review of applications, has observed in many cases that different organizations applied for a grant although their mission (according to the documents presented) was not at all close to the kinds of grants announced.

9 Bardhyl Ajeti from the daily Bota Sot was murdered in 2005. See last year’s report, Nations in Transit, on Kosovo.

10 “Kryeshefi Muja edhe njehere tregon forcen fizike ndaj gazetareve [Head of Municipality Muja Once More Shows Physical Force Against Journalists],” 22 January, press release, Association of Professional Journalists of Kosova (APJK), all Pristina-based dailies.

11 Press release APJK, November, 2006

12 All dailies, 28 October 2006.

13Koha Ditore daily newspaper, 4 May 2006

14 Almost 80 percent of respondents declare TV as the main source of information, whereas the newspapers reach something more than 7 percent; see http://www.indexkosova.com/Publications/Pub_sep2006.html.

15Local Governance and Administration, Leon Malazogu and Era Gjurgjeala, 2005, p. 22.

16 March 29, 2006, all daily newspapers published in Pristina.

17 OSCE report Review of Judicial Penal System in Kosovo, Albanian version, published on December 14, 2006, p. 26.

18Comprehensive Review of the Situation in Kosovo, report, 8 October 2005.

19 Kosovo (under UNSCR 1244) 2006 Progress Report, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 8 November 2006, p. 38.

20 Hashim Thaçi, leader of the opposition party PDK, press conference, 8 December 2006.

21 See Çohu! web site: http://www.cohu.org/fondiharadinaj.html.

22 See the Office of the Auditor General in Kosovo web site: http://www.oag-ks.org/reports.htm.

23 “The LDK Might Discuss Haziri’s Jugoterm Affair,” Koha Ditore, 15 October 2006.

24 All Pristina-based dailies, 15 December 2006.

25Why High Officials Did Not Execute Their Obligation to Denounce Serious Breaches of Law During the Years 2000–2005, Investigative Report of the Organization for Democracy, Anticorruption, and Dignity Çohu!, p. 7.