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Dear representatives of civil society in Kosovo,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to take part once again in launching the Anti-corruption week in Kosovo this year. This event is bringing together national authorities, civil society and us, the international community, with only one goal – to fight corruption. This dangerous phenomenon remains deeply-rooted in many areas. It undermines progress in the rule of law, economic development, education and health systems. It tarnishes the image of Kosovo. It undermines the trust that the citizens of Kosovo have towards their own institutions.
For the European Union, fight against corruption has always been and remains a priority. As an integral part of the EU integration process, the EU has called upon Kosovo to take robust action in fighting corruption through the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), European Reform Agenda (ERA), the visa liberalization process and the 2018 Country Report. Full and robust implementation of all these policies remains in the hands of Kosovo politicians of all stripes.
Recently, good progress has been made with the adoption of several laws tackling corruption, such as: Criminal Code, Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers, Law on Disciplinary Liability of Judges and Prosecutors, Law on Extended Powers of Confiscation and Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest.
The adoption of these laws must now be followed by their robust implementation through: active investigation and prosecution of corruption and organized crime offences; removal of public officials sentenced of corruption; confiscation of assets acquired through illegal means; dynamic and uncompromising conduct of disciplinary proceedings against corrupt judges and prosecutors; as well as through protection of those who denounce corruption.
However, law enforcement and judicial actions are only one side of the coin. Fighting corrupt practices is very much related to a wider good governance and public administration reform agenda. This is why, in the Western Balkan Strategy of this year, the EU focussed on the issue of 'state capture' and the persistent entanglement of public and private interests at all levels of government and administration. Addressing these issues requires merit-based appointments free from political, commercial or other patronage links.
Strengthening transparency and accountability is a major focus of the EU's support to public administration reform in Kosovo. Preventing corrupt practices requires broader efforts to ensure regulators, publicly-owned enterprises and central and municipal administrations are free from nepotism and are willing to apply laws in equal ways. Also, the enhanced oversight over the agencies and regulators is a must.
In this regard we are happy to observe that the recently proposed package of public administration laws, currently before the Assembly, attempts to address some of these issues. We encourage Kosovo to take these reforms forward.
The EU is and will remain Kosovo’s steadfast supporter in its fight against corruption, by strengthening its legal and institutional framework and aligning its mechanisms with EU acquis communautaire. Kosovo – on its part - must continue to demonstrate that it is relentless in fighting corruption and is steadily building an accountable, effective and efficient administration. For that to happen a broad political consensus is needed.
The Kosovo people are those who will benefit the most, if corruption is no longer a problem. Economy will have a chance to rebound, investment will likely pour in, jobs will be created, living conditions will gradually improve and so will the overall image of the country.
We will take the opportunity this week to discuss the main issues that Kosovo is still facing. We will discuss the improvements that can be achieved to build a corruption-free society. It is equally important to give the floor to the people of Kosovo for them to speak out and raise their concerns. We are in this fight together!
We are launching today the Anti-Corruption Week in Kosovo. While it is important that we engage in events and discussions during the next days, we must be aware that fighting corruption is something that needs engagement of all of us every day of every year. Only our joint, concerted and persistent action will lead to better future for all people of Kosovo!