Kosovo: three governments, one country report
The Kosovo 2020 report attempts to wrap up the work of three governments: the Haradinaj caretaker government, the short-lived Kurti government, and the Hoti government. The latter, however, happens to be the key partner for the EU in the process of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia that it facilitates – even if this government is not very keen to deliver on reforms.
The report – although sugarcoated in many aspects – is rather disappointing for the citizens of Kosovo. It begs the question how it is possible that the most pro-EU country in the region, led by pro-EU governments heralding the integration process, a year and a half since the last assessment, can receive a report stating that there is limited progress on EU-related reforms?
To best reflect the complexity in EU-Kosovo relations, the report starts with the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) and the European Reform Agenda, for which Kosovo has shown limited willingness and effectiveness in delivering. Furthermore, the report continues with the long overdue visa liberalisation process, which emphasises the lack of political will to deliver from the EU side and has had a detrimental impact on the EU’s credibility in Kosovo.
On the political criteria, Kosovo has managed to organise credible and relatively well-administered elections. Although the counting process revealed irregularities, and there was worrying pressure on voters in the Serbian municipalities pushing them towards non-Srpska Lista candidates and supporters. This is particularly concerning considering the fact that Srpska Lista emerged from the Brussels Dialogue.
While elections are an important element of democracy, the free and fair elections of October 2019 did not necessarily bring substantial changes in the country’s overall democratic transformation. Furthermore, it didn't even manage to make the Assembly more functional: its work is disrupted by the frequent lack of a quorum reflecting the current political crisis and polarisation of the political elite. The only improvement in the Assembly relates to logistics, which have improved due to the proactive engagement of the Head of the Parliament.
When reading the parts of the report relating to the judicial system, the fight against corruption and organised crime, one can hardly tell the difference from previous years. The language is crafted in a very particular way, aiming to at least include some progress made in these rather problematic areas. The limited progress is mainly on paper and very likely placed there to justify the EU presence in Kosovo - EULEX for instance - which is there with the aim of improving the judicial system.
The EU-facilitated dialogue occupies a rather large part of the report. The report focuses only on the last three months, which marked the return of the Dialogue in Brussels. As expected, progress has been measured by the number of high-level meetings: Brussels did not hesitate to praise a process lacking transparency and taking place between two governments elected and mandated through questionable processes.
Similarly, regional cooperation has been seen only through the removal of the 100% tariff on Serbian and Bosnian products, which was lifted by the Kurti government and reciprocated by the Hoti Government. While the report claims that this paves the way for an improvement in the relations between the three countries, it is rather early to celebrate in this regard.
In conclusion, the report is more blunt in flagging the lack of political willingness to deliver on the reforms required for membership in the EU. However, there is an urgent need to address key issues such as state capture and democratic stagnation in the country. While there might be some progress on paper, the political crisis and tendencies for the old political elite to remain in power have put all progress made so far into serious jeopardy.