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(The joint agreed EU-Kosovo conclusions of the Public Administration Reform Special Group, held on 26th April, can be found here:
Substantive reforms of the public administration are underway in Kosovo, under the leadership of the Ministry of Public Administration and the Office of the Prime Minister. The European Commission has welcomed the planned legislative package of laws, which includes the laws on public officials, the law on salaries and the law on the organisation and functioning of the state administration and independent agencies. The Commission also welcomes the fact that this package is being prepared in a coordinated way, as Kosovo has committed itself to do in the policy dialogue on public administration reform, set up under the SAA.
Progress in this regard was discussed most recently on 26 April, at the Public Administration Reform (PAR) Special Group in Pristina. The Special Group on PAR monitors and accompanies Kosovo's delivery on its commitments to having well-functioning democratic institutions and to reforming the public administration. It also identifies how the EU can further assist in this process. The meeting discussed key outstanding policy decisions which have to be taken in the coming months.
The three laws form the backbone of a very substantive reform for Kosovo, which will enable Kosovo to build the legislative and institutional framework for a public administration that is more equitable, merit-based, coherent and accountable. All of this is done with a view to ensuring more effective and efficient service delivery to citizens and businesses. The aim of the law on Salaries for example is to harmonise the salary structure of the civil service, in order to have equal pay for equal work.
As part of this broad reform objective the three laws are being drafted and they are currently entering the final stage of preparation on the side of the government. A number of key policy questions are still open and the EU remains committed to assisting Kosovo so that implementable and sustainable solutions can be found, including as regards the inevitable costs of their implementation.
All reforms of public administration have to be designed based on the realities in Kosovo, including the working culture, the institutional set-up and the available capacities. Crucially, especially as regards the draft law on Salaries the Commission has consistently urged Kosovo to ensure as wide a public consultations as possible, including with trade unions of teachers, health care staff and other affected groups, especially in view of the ambitious timeline and scope. Such consultation is also important given the risks a lack of sufficient communication potentially poses to the social acceptance of the wider reform project.
Regarding the new Law on Public Officials, the Commission recommended to have a position-based recruitment (an open competition) for senior civil servants, rather than a closed senior management 'pool' recruitment, in order to ensure the ability of public institutions to attract the talent and expertise necessary. At the same time, the Commission stresses that political influence over senior appointments continues to be a serious concern and that steps should be undertaken within the new law, as well as the current regulation, to ensure a more merit-based processes.
The EU remains committed to accompany Kosovo's own reforms also with assistance. For this reason, the EU and Kosovo concluded a Sector Reform Contract for Public Administration Reform which foresees a total of €25m financial assistance to Kosovo until 2021. This assistance is divided into four payments of a maximum amount of €22m into the Budget of Kosovo, and €3m of technical assistance. The payments into the budget are conditioned upon making progress on the reforms and on meeting targets that have been mutually agreed.
A payment of €5,5m is planned for disbursement in 2018, if Kosovo meets the conditions set out in the contract. These conditions relate to progress made on implementing the public administration- and public finance management reforms, on implementing credible and stability-oriented macro-economic policies and on increasing the transparency of the budget. These conditions are assessed and need to be met for each payment of the contract, including the payments foreseen for 2019, 2020 and 2021. For the following years, the payment will also be linked to the achievement of eight targets, jointly negotiated and stipulated in the reform contract. These targets cover the following areas:
1) inclusive and evidence-based policy and legislative development,
2) improved public access to documents,
3) improved professionalism and management of human resources,
4) improved services to citizens and businesses,
5) reduced administrative burden for citizen and businesses,
6) improved policy planning,
7) a more rational and accountable state administration, and
8) and improved access to administrative justice.