European Union Office in Kosovo 
European Union Special Representative in Kosovo

It is time to take responsibility

31/12/2016 - 00:00

OP-ED for Kosova Sot by Nataliya Apostolova, Head of EU Office/EU Special Representative

The New Year is the time for making new resolutions for a more positive outlook and spirit for the year ahead. As we approach 2017, it is of a great importance to take our time to focus on good things and the people we hold dear to our heart. It is time to reflect on the year we are leaving behind, on what was good and what could have been done better.

As someone who has come to Kosovo only four months ago, I of course cannot reflect on everything that has happened here during this past year. However, after meeting lots of people, politicians, institutional leaders, civil society, business people and ordinary citizens, I can already see that Kosovo is a challenging and vibrant society.

Let me start with the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between Kosovo and the EU, which came into force in April. With the SAA, Kosovo and the EU have for the first time created a formal relation, a clear indication of Kosovo's European perspective. Once implemented, the SAA will lead to a higher competitiveness of Kosovo's private sector, resulting in higher income and more jobs. It will gradually introduce higher standards for consumer protection, leading to an increased safety for Kosovo's consumers. The SAA will bring more competition, potentially contributing to lower prices and a bigger assortment of goods and services for the Kosovo population to choose from. The business environment will become more predictable, with better safety for both domestic and foreign investors, which is expected to create more jobs for Kosovo people. A recently launched European Reform Agenda (ERA) is a way to kick-start the implementation of the SAA. This shows our concrete commitment to Kosovo's European path.

I will continue with visa liberalisation, something that Kosovo citizens have been waiting for. Despite the fact that the European Commission gave its recommendation for visa liberalizations for Kosovo and despite expectations and hopes of the people, it is unfortunate that Kosovo leaders could not deliver on two remaining conditions they have agreed to back in 2012: completing demarcation process with Montenegro and strengthening the track record in fighting corruption and organized crime.  This is something that Kosovo leaders should reflect upon so to have this issue solved swiftly, in the interest of the Kosovo people.

Another thing that needs reflection of Kosovo political class is the 2016 Kosovo Report, which showed that there is little progress in the Kosovo society. There should be improvements in economy, health, judiciary, education, freedom of expression, etc. Recent PISA scores that showed poor performance of Kosovo students have raised many concerns in Kosovo. Being a parent myself, I fully understand that. Parents want a good education for their children as an investment for the future. They want their children to be competitive on the labour market, and to have skills that will match challenges of a modern society.

I hope this will serve as a wakeup call for all decision-makers so that they focus on what is important to the Kosovo people: more and better jobs; education that will ensure a solid future for Kosovo's youth; a society with less tolerance to corruption and crime that will allow the best and the brightest to advance and get jobs based on merit.

Or, take the issue of air quality: When you get reports indicating such high level of air pollution as it is these days, it is impossible not to get worried. We all want to live in a clean and safe environment, drink clean water and breathe clean air.

These are all essential things in any person's life. And these are the issues the government must prioritize and take seriously.

Kosovo has a clear European perspective. Just recently, the EU taxpayers gave 78 million euro through IPA (Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance) funds as assistance to Kosovo people to be used for creating new jobs, economic development, environment, fight against corruption and better governance in Kosovo. Now Kosovo must deliver. It has to make sure that democratic institutions are functional, starting with the Assembly.

With a common purpose, leadership and a political will, much can be achieved to make Kosovo a better, safer and more accommodating place for all. Blaming others does not serve any good and is not the way to move forward. It is time for everyone to take responsibility and put interests of the people of Kosovo first.  

This would be my message for 2017. Wish you all a better, healthy and successful new year!

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