Visa Liberalization Process in Kosovo: A prologue to achievements, challenges and needs

The question of admission of Kosovo to the visa-free regime has been marked as an issue of high priority, for both the government as well as for citizens of Kosovo. Among others, as a citizen of a country surrounded by states that are part of visa-free access to the Schengen area caused a feeling of isolation. When the European Union lunched the visa liberalization process for Western Balkan countries back in January 2008, Kosovo had not yet declared the independence and was not therefore invited to participate in the process. However, in its Communication on Kosovo of October 2009 the European Commission affirmed that “Kosovo citizens need to share further in the benefits of EU approximation, including the possibility to travel visa-free in the EU …. The Commission proposes to move forward with a structured approach to bring Kosovo’s citizens closer to the EU through a visa dialogue with the perspective of eventual visa liberalisation when the necessary reforms will have been undertaken.” Besides, in late 2009 the Council of the EU declared that Kosovo should also benefit from the perspective of visa liberalisation provided that it will properly meet the introductory standards. This consensus formula affirmed that twenty-seven EU Member States will act without prejudice to Member States’ positions on Kosovo status.You can download this Policy Note by clicking here.

Are Belgrade’s local elections an end in itself: A view towards the dynamic plan in extending/diminishing hopes for an Ahtisaari-based authority in the northern Kosovo

Having gone through an in-depth Dialogue facilitated by the European Union (hereinafter: EU), both Kosovo and Serbia had faced difficulties in reaching consensus in numerous politically sensitive issues. Though the pressure of the EU upon the parties has increased constantly, the Dialogue has continued to pass its ‘border’ between ‘technical’ to ‘political’ dimensions. The entire concept of Dialogue, however, was lately concentrated in saving the pro-European government in Belgrade from potential turn over, giving Kosovo a little more than a promised visa liberalization process. Under an increased pressure from both the EU and the United States, Kosovo and Serbia agreed on the 24th of February on the regional representation formula, with Kosovo assenting that it be represented via an asterisk referring to the UNSC Resolution 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence. The agreement on regional representation, that was viewed by the EU as the successful model for both Kosovo and Serbia to bypass their EU integration pitfalls, had faced huge domestic opposition in Kosovo: opposition political parties and the public hugely contested the legitimacy of an agreement that leads to Kosovo accepting an uncommon asterisk for a state proclaimed as independent, whereas the international community argued that this seemed the only realistic way to enable Kosovo’s presence at the regional and EU level meetings.You can download  this Policy Note by clicking here.

Public procurement practices at the municipal level: A statement of preliminary findings

Public procurement practice in Kosovo is often referred as one of the main sources of corruption. Another argument, hence, speaks for the fact that this practice is mainly a result of both central and local level institutions’ behaviour. In this policy note, though, the aim is to highlight the main problems with public procurement at the municipal level. The focus, therefore, is to emphasize the main problems related to  the misuse/circumvention of the public procurement rules of behaviour determined by the law on public procurement with regard to the procurement activities undertaken by municipal institutions. In particular, we refer mainly to secondary data and information acquired from the findings of, inter alia, the office of the Auditor General, Public Procurement Regulatory Commission (Department for Supervision and Monitoring), Procurement Review Body decisions, and from our staff field research activities. Of note is the fact that the annual public procurement market in Kosovo in 2010 was about 800 million EUR, representing approximately 14% of the GDP, including the public procurement activities undertaken by central and local level institutions as well as publicly owned companies.You can download this Policy Note by clicking here.

An Ahtisaari ‘Plus’ Paradigm for the northern Kosovo: a Unified or a Divisive Approach for Ethnic Communities in Kosovo?

The events that followed the Kosovo‟s government- owned police action intended to reassert control over the border crossings in the northern Kosovo dominated by ethnic Serbs generated a complex situation, both domestically and internationally. A very common tendency – as anticipated by several rational observers – was that the reaction of local Serbians living in the northern Kosovo would be adjusted to both the aims of the Serbian Government and Serbian opposition political parties that control some of the local leaders in those areas.A number of multifaceted developments therefore pursued these events. On the one hand, local Serbians living in the northern Kosovo were mobilized to confront any action of the Kosovo Government to put into control both border-crossing posts, and on the other, to avert any action that intends to establish a different  governing logic in the northern part of Kosovo. With a new – both political and non-political – approach to resisting any form of control from the international and Kosovo‟s Government authority, local Serbians in the northern Kosovo started to implicitly articulate the Serbia‟s Government request for a northern autonomous territorial entity, later labelled as an “Ahtisaari Plus” solution. Of note is the fact that this solution was never substantively articulated and/or formulated. There is of course another view which reiterates that the Serbian leaders‟ claim for an autonomous north is an ambiguous claim in itself. It goes without saying that considering Kosovo part of Serbia on the one hand, and claiming an autonomous solution for its northern part, on the other, makes this claim both ambiguous and obscure.  You can download this Policy Note by clicking here.

A Comprehensive Agenda for the North: The New European Approach

Being conscious of the latest complex and challenging situation in the northern Kosovo, the European Commission has officially requested in its Enlargement Strategy 2011-2012 that Kosovo adopt ‘a comprehensive agenda for the north’. As it stands, in its part, the European Commission gave no further explanation on this ‘advice’, leaving it as a straightforward contention. Although many perceive this as a simple statement having hardly any effect, one should dare to analyse more profoundly the substance of this request of the European Commission. Therefore, this Policy Note will analyse the substantive meaning and the significance of the European Commission asking Kosovo to adopt a comprehensive agenda for the north, and hints on the possible policy options that could derive thereof. We argue that the comprehensive agenda,nevertheless, should be complemented with an increased pressure of the EU upon Serbia to halt financing and supporting parallel structures in Kosovo. Certainly, Kosovo’s Government must effectively lobby at the EU institutional and member states’ level to transform this in an explicit condition on Serbia’s European integration track.You can download this Policy Note by clicking here.