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Dear Mr Prime Minister Haradinaj,
Dear Ministers Hoxha, Tahiri, Bytyqi, Beqaj, Ismajli,
Dear Mr Ambassador Delawie,
Ladies and gentleman,
Kosovo is a young democracy, and the EU continues to help Kosovo at many levels along the path to its European Perspective.
We are working with Kosovo on structural 'economic' and 'Rule of Law' reforms fostering economic development and leading to political stability.
We are assisting Kosovo to develop a solid track record on the implementation of the SAA.
The EU is joined in these efforts by the United States and many other Donors.
Donor coordination allows the Kosovo government to take ownership of its development agenda; and to ensure the best use of the funds available.
Kosovo's donor coordination mechanisms should be an integral part of a strategic planning, policy design and delivery process.
I firmly believe that it is time for Kosovo to take upon itself the role of Co-coordinator of all Donor activities.
The Ministry of European Integration must come forward with a yearly plan, creating a framework for all the meetings that need to be prepared during 2018. The Ministry has a Department legally designated as responsible for this, it also has European Integration Officers embedded in all of the line ministries. It is time to activate this network and breathe life into your Donor Coordination efforts.
I am pleased that Minister Tahiri is here today, and I would like to address the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights sector.
There are many Donors in this area, and the EU Office alone has managed since 2007 more than 160 million Euro.
With so much money going in, it is vital that the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Office of Good Governance begin convening meetings of the sub-sector working groups in early January 2018. The sub-sector working groups should be held quarterly. The meetings of the Rule of Law Sector Working Group should convene at least twice a year, and this should be in the framework of the yearly plan coordinated by the Ministry of European Integration.
Now I move to focus on the priorities for the weeks and months to come.
Firstly, the Justice Sector Review.
We stand ready to support the Justice Sector Review planned by the Ministry of Justice for 2018.
Secondly, the EU-recommended legislative agenda.
I am happy to observe that the government has been doing a lot to advance the rule of law-related legislative agenda and my Office is associated with this process and is actively supporting it. If finalised, these efforts will enhance your toolbox in the fight against corruption and organised crime. This in turn will lead to improving the assessment of Kosovo in the upcoming Country Report, which is due in April 2018. Until then, there is still time to conclude works on some crucial pieces of legislation stemming from ERA and the 2016 Country Report. I believe the focus should remain on:
With regard to the suspension and/or removal of public officials for corruption, I would strongly recommend that these amendments be adopted separately from the ongoing, comprehensive reform of the criminal codes. This latter process will take a lot of time and the EU would rather see faster changes concerning suspension and removal as they are crucial for the effective fight against official corruption.
Thirdly, Justice integration in the North
Justice integration in the North is the biggest recent achievement of Kosovo in the areas of both dialogue and justice. And once again I would like to congratulate Kosovo on that.
As the process has successfully commenced, you now need to stay the course and support it with your funds, experts and political will. The Kosovo Authorities, together with Donors must do their utmost to facilitate the daily operations of the courts and prosecution office in the North. Organisational support by the Ministry of Justice, KJC and KPC will be needed together with some funding earmarked for, among others, facilities maintenance, translation of court documents or security.
Now I move to Education, a sector supported with substantial funds by many donors. It is increasingly becoming a priority for the European Union. The EU Office alone has managed since 2007 more than 38 million Euro and we plan to spend some 30 million in the three years to come. This goes hand in hand with our political priorities, Education is one of the 3 ERA pillars and we are discussing with the Government to increase the number of measures and cover all levels of Education in the Economic Reform Programme.
While we see progress, there is also a lot of overlap and inefficiency. There was a clear commitment by government during the High Level Forum in December 2016 to activate the Donor Coordination structures, but they were largely not used during 2017, for example there were no Sub-sector working group meetings at all.
In 2018 we should do better. Within the framework of planned meetings for 2018, published and coordinated by the Ministry of European Integration, the first sub-sector working groups on pre-university education, higher education should meet in January. As with the Rule of Law, these meetings should be held quarterly and report to the Sector Working Group that should meet at least twice per year. Conclusions should be published for the stakeholders.
Let me now emphasise the key priorities of the European Union in the education sector:
• To empower the Ministry for Education, Science and Technology to implement the necessary reforms, a functional review is being currently conducted to review the internal organisation and Human Resources management of Ministry staff. The outcome of this review will be recommendations for re-organisation and re-structuring, which the Ministry has committed to use for its planned restructuring, beginning of March 2018.
• You have in place the Kosovo Education Strategic Plan (2017-2021), a well-designed and comprehensive plan covering all levels of education with ambitious targets. If these targets are met, the situation in the sector will improve vastly, and over time the results will impact other areas such as increased employment, a better quality of services and of life in general. We encourage the Government to stick to this Strategy and to ensure the funding for its implementation.
On legislation, recently the Minister has created a new Working Group to draft the Law on Higher Education, and in the last SAA Subcommittee meeting we agreed with the Government that this exercise should be completed in the first quarter of 2018. This is a positive development and whilst it is important to have this law amended, the focus should be on quality. We hope to see in the new law that criteria for academic promotion are strengthened, that there are enough safeguards to ensure autonomy of Higher Education Institutions but also to ensure responsibility, and last but not least, that the independence and capacities of the Accreditation Agency are strengthened. We are happy that the Minister is keeping us in the loop, and we hope for a positive outcome.
Regarding the Law on the Education Inspectorate and the adoption of the Law on Textbooks, we hope to see swift progress. The Law on Pre-University Education needs to be properly implemented and the Labour Law needs to be harmonised with the Law on Pre-University Education.
By putting these pieces of legislation and action together, we hope you will be able to better align education with labour market needs.
• Forecasting and assessing the skills needed in the Labour Market is currently done independently and by many actors in the field, often with little exchange or coordination. Thus the Ministry should take ownership, and coordinate the ongoing efforts.
In the Rule of Law, in Education and across many other sectors, you can be sure that the EU is standing by Kosovo, fully devoted to working and achieving our mutual goals.
Thank you very much for your time.