The remarks of the Head of EU Office/EU Special Representative, Nataliya Apostolova, at the conference on European Reform Agenda
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Honourable Prime Minister Haradinaj,
Ministers Hoxha, Tahiri and Yagcilar
Ambassador Per Sjaard,
Dear Mr. Rashiti
The EU has recommended Kosovo to take several steps that would enable it to progress profoundly on its path of European integration. Many of such steps are included in the commonly agreed European Reform Agenda and concern the area of the rule of law and good governance;
Through the fulfilment of its ERA obligations, Kosovo will be able to demonstrate its genuine commitment to certain high standards relating to combating serious criminality as well as functioning of judiciary and other branches of government;
The fulfilment of all the ERA requirements requires a concerted action of the government, the Assembly as well as the dedication and willingness on the part of the Police, judiciary and the correctional service;
The Prime Minister's Office together with the Ministry of European Integration need to take a leading and proactive role vis a vis other 'implementing partners', mainly the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Kosovo Judicial Council, Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor;
We are happy to observe that over the last weeks, Kosovo Authorities have been taking steps to fulfil their obligations stemming from ERA, especially in the area of legislation that is crucial for the complete and robust implementation of the SAA;
Let me make a few, specific and concrete observations on the part of my Office, regarding the progress of ERA implementation:
I am happy to note that finally, after 4 years, auditors have been selected to go through political party financial reporting. It is important that these auditors are now able to do their work unobstructed and that political parties grant full access, as per the law, to them. This should then be followed up by the CEC and enforcement action taken against any violations.
But ERA also contained another commitment: full publication of the financial reports and campaign disclosures by the parties. We are very concerned that in many cases that has not happened. Kosovo has had two elections this year, parliamentary and the ongoing local ones, and it is problematic that both campaigns were conducted without any meaningful financial disclosures by the parties. The Government, the Assembly and the parties themselves should ensure that this happens without further delay.
Further, it is clear that the Law on Financing of Political Parties contains important weaknesses. It is welcomed that the Government has signalled its willingness to review the legislation and we – through our Legislative Review Mechanism – have contributed recommendations to this process. The aim should be to ensure transparency, accountability and effective enforcement and sanctions, on the basis of wide public consultations on the basis of international standards and best practice. We therefore believe the best way to ensure meaningful and effective reform is for Kosovo to submit its reform proposal, prior to adoption, to the Venice Commission for review and recommendations.
I would like to underline the importance of public administration reform, on which we are planning a major budget support programme (EUR 25 million). Budget support is a contract with the EU. Preconditions need to be met before we can start, and reforms need to be delivered before we pay.
The principles of merit, equitable representation, transparency and accountability have to be ensured throughout the public sector. The respect of these principles is embodied in the Public Administration Reform Strategic Package. Of course, implementation has been difficult without a government, but now is the moment to step up efforts.
Kosovo should further advance work on rationalising independent agencies, to enhance accountability, eliminate overlapping competencies and ensure a more streamlined public administration. In this regard, we welcome that Kosovo continued to work on preparing an action plan on implementation of the review of the independent agencies of the Assembly and state central bodies.
We note with satisfaction that the Prime Minister has taken some steps to rectify the situation of illegal appointments at Public Companies with the decision to dismiss 10 members of boards which had been illegally appointed as was proven by the Anti-Corruption Agency. We note though that certain public companies were shielded from this decision. It is clear that half implementing the measure, is not implementing it at all.
It is crucial to the functioning of the public administration system and the public companies, for service delivery to citizens and economic development that appointments are done on the basis of merit and not political patronage. We therefore remain concerned with such decisions as the dismissal of the Agency for Accreditation. Some of these recent actions go against the spirit of the reforms on we are advocating.
I am happy to note that the Draft Concept Note (including proposed articles of the CC and CPC) was prepared by the MOJ and submitted for public consultations on 13 October 2017. On 24 October 2017 the Legislative Review Mechanism submitted to the MOJ a Consolidated Legal Opinion (joint position of EUSR, EULEX and IPA experts) to the presented Draft.
We expect that the proposed amendments to the CC and CPC are adopted soon by the Government and then by the Assembly. This will mark an important step in Kosovo's fight against official corruption and will constitute a visible proof of its genuine will to tackle this dangerous phenomenon.
Our Team has assisted Kosovo Authorities in their endeavour to amend this legislation and stands ready to continue doing so at any stage of the process.