Prishtina, 5 November, 2023
The first Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, Development and Dialogue of the Republic of Kosovo, Besnik Bislimi, received the 2023 Country Report of the European Commission from the EU ambassador in Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog, and today during the day.
After submitting the report of the meeting held between the parties, a joint media conference was held, where in his speech, Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi said that: “This is the first report after our application for EU membership in December of last year, and at the same time, the report addresses for the first time the final decision of the EU that citizens of the Republic of Kosovo can travel without visas in the Schengen area starting from January 1, 2024”.
“The country’s report states, among other things, that the Government has continued with its ambitious reform agenda towards the EU. During this period, the report proves important legislative achievements in political criteria as well as implementation of measures and progress in economic ones as well as EU standards. In the European integration agenda, the Government of Kosovo has been evaluated for the achievements in the implementation of the Agenda for European Reforms (ERA II) and the National Program for European Integration 2023-27”, he added.
Highlighting the achievements in internal reforms in the rule of law, good governance, economic and social progress, visa liberalization and commitment to regional cooperation, Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi said that:
“The EU membership process should be fully based on meritocracy, but we cannot talk about meritocracy as long as Kosovo is not formally assessed as to whether it meets the Copenhagen criteria. Kosovo believes in its European future and as an example of democracy in the region, it should be given the opportunity to prove it. We have made our move, we have expressed our interest and we have submitted the EU membership application. I also use this opportunity to invite the EU, respectively the Council of the EU, to mandate the European Commission to make our assessment of the candidate’s status through the questionnaire.”
“Kosovo has repeatedly proven that it is an ally of the EU, because it believes in its European future”, he concluded.
The complete speech of Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi:
Dear Ambassador Szunyog,
Dear media representatives,
Dear citizens of the Republic of Kosovo,
Thank you to each of you who are with us today as we receive from the European Commission the Country Report for 2023. This is the first report since our application for EU membership in December last year, and at the same time, the report addresses for the first time the final decision of the EU that the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo can travel without visas in the Schengen area starting from January 1, 2024.
The country’s report, among other things, states that the Government has continued with its ambitious reform agenda towards the EU. During this period, the report proves important legislative achievements in political criteria as well as implementation of measures and progress in economic ones as well as EU standards. In the European integration agenda, the Government of Kosovo has been evaluated for the achievements in the implementation of the Agenda for European Reforms (ERA II) and the National Program for European Integration 2023-27 (PKIE).
The report commends Kosovo for its foreign policy towards the war in Ukraine and the imposition of measures and sanctions against Russia and Belarus in full compliance with those from the EU and the US.
The commitment and dedication of the Government on the road to the EU is ever greater, therefore we support and highly appreciate the Growth Plan that Mr. Szunyog, which was released today. EU integration and the benefits of the EU Single Market must be linked to economic and democratic reforms, which is why we firmly stand behind the principles on which this plan is rooted. Because there should be no EU benefits or EU funds without embracing EU values, just as there should not be additional or specific conditions for one of the states.
Due to its specifics, Kosovo is further behind in its journey towards the EU and has the most unfavorable indicator in comparisons of the level of convergence. Therefore, it needs additional support from the EU and assessment of additional conditions or preconditions for access to the funds of the Growth Plan. This is even more important if we want to remain faithful to the achievement of the goals proclaimed by the Growth Plan itself.
Accelerated economic integration and convergence in income with the EU and within the Western Balkans coincides with our commitment and progress achieved in economic criteria during this period, such as:
In the field of competition and economic growth, we have progressed especially in the field of customs, taxes, social and employment policies, education, culture and the energy sector.
Good progress has also been achieved in the field of alignment with the internal market, where 16 laws and 35 bylaws have been approved within the framework of the SAA requirements.
Increase in budget revenues by 14%
Successful formalization of jobs
Annual increase of foreign direct investments by 88% compared to last year
Significant reduction of public debt
Progress in public project management
Increase in exports of goods and services and increase in the degree of openness of the economy
Increase in registration of new businesses and increase in the difference between open and closed businesses. In 2022 alone, over 11,000 new businesses have opened.
We have a stable financial sector against successive crises
Improvement of the business environment
Successful digital transformation of the economy
Improvement in the free movement of goods, services and capital
Significant decrease in unemployment from 19% to 11.8%
The lowest rate of sub-performing loans historically at the level of 2%
Meanwhile, we have evident progress in the field of energy, both in projects and in legislation:
Approval of the energy strategy 2022 – 2031
Security in energy supply
Increase in investment in renewable energy
The first solar auction for 100 MW
Measures for energy efficiency in public and residential buildings, subsidizing over 10,000 families for the purchase of efficient equipment and many others.
According to our analysis, there are some achievements in the segment of political criteria, more specifically in the field of the functioning of democracy, justice and the rule of law, the fight against corruption and public administration, which should have been evaluated and emphasized more in this report, since they are achieved with great importance for a democratic society and moreover were recommended in last year’s report itself.
Some of them are:
Law on General Elections – which addresses long-standing recommendations of EU and OSCE observation missions for transparent and democratic elections
Law on the financing of political parties – long-standing request of the EU
The new regulation of the Assembly
Law on the Government of the Republic of Kosovo
Law on Wages in the public sector
Law on Public Officials
Law on the State Prosecutor
Functionalization of the Commercial Court
Significant increase in the number of judges and prosecutors as well as the automatic assignment of cases
Law on the Prosecution Council of Kosovo
Law on Prevention and Protection from Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence and many other areas
Strengthening free legal aid and many others
Also, the report highlights the achievements in anti-corruption legislation such as:
Law on the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption
Law on Declaration, Origin and Control of Assets and Gifts
As for the Assembly, we must bear in mind that the Assembly and its efficiency are measured by the number of approved laws and the successful exercise of other supervisory functions, and not by whether a quorum was reached or a certain number of meetings were held meetings. During the past year, the Assembly approved 110 laws, which is the largest number of laws approved in one year in the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo. The new regulation of the Assembly aims to improve the conditions and procedures for the better functioning of the work of the Assembly.
Kosovo has also been evaluated in the field of regional cooperation. Citizens in the Western Balkans today should not live under the fear of a possible conflict tomorrow, but work for a common future. As a government, we have the responsibility to build that common future. A commitment and good faith is required to guarantee the long-term effectiveness of the agreements and the respect of all parties who are invested in the process. Kosovo participates and contributes to almost all regional initiatives. The signing of three mobility agreements, which Mr. Szunyog, during the last year within the Berlin Process and the fact that Kosovo is the first country to ratify those three agreements, shows our commitment to regional cooperation.
As for the Public Administration Reform, the Government has approved a series of essential and quality documents from this field. First, the strategy for public administration was approved, and its implementation began from January 2023. Reporting and monitoring is provided through an online platform, which is fully functional. Also, the government has already approved the strategy for e-government and the Law on cyber security, while in the legislative aspect, the government has approved and has already started the implementation of two essential laws, as I mentioned before, the Law on public officials and the Law on salaries. I strongly believe that after listing these achievements within just 1 year, the only correct description and assessment would be that there has been good progress in this field.
The government has approved the Program for Prevention and Reduction of Administrative Burden 2022-2027. This Program is designed to address regulatory and administrative obstacles that hinder economic development and has resulted in the simplification of 44 permits and licenses for economic operators. Within the digitalization of services for citizens, on the e-Kosova platform, the number of public administrative services at the central level has increased from 21 to a full 140, which is an increase of 700%, and this for about 800,000 subscribers such as citizens, businesses and NGOs who, through access to e-Kosova, save not only time but also financial resources.
As for civil society, it generally functions in a favorable environment. Civil society continues to actively participate in public consultations and contribute to policy-making and monitoring processes. The online platform for public consultations has been updated with features that facilitate the participation of persons with special needs. The report finds that Civil Society Organizations, stakeholders and the public engaged almost 400% more in public consultations at the central level than in the previous year.
Regarding the gender equality agenda, the report recognizes that the participation of women at all levels of governance and decision-making in institutions and political parties has improved. For the first time, women lead more than half of parliamentary committees, an achievement which may not even be seen in most of the EU’s own members, and the representation of women in senior government positions has increased. Likewise, women’s ownership of the properties that belong to them has increased by 400% this year alone, from 1,500 to about 7,000 properties owned by women.
For the protection of personal data, we have very positive evaluations in terms of alignment with the EU acquis. The Information and Privacy Agency oversees the implementation of the Law on the Protection of Personal Data and the Law on Access to Public Documents. The agency has shown itself to be independent and has continued to improve its capacities.
Regarding access to information, the legislation is broadly in line with EU standards. In 2022, the Agency reported that public institutions have received a total of 4,481 requests for access to public documents and only 154 have not been fulfilled, which is a percentage of only 3% of requests for access to public information have not been fulfilled.
The report also gives suggestions and recommendations for the next steps that the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo should follow during the journey towards the EU, which we will take seriously and we will see to it that they are included in the National Program for European Integration as well as in the Action Plan.
Dear citizens, Kosovo has proven that it is an ally of the European Union, and the EU must also prove that it loves Kosovo and sees it within the European Union. Complete non-recognition by the 27 EU member states continues to weaken the position of the EU not only in Kosovo, but also in the region. The continuation of the membership process depends on the political will, while obtaining the candidate status does not mean recognition by the member states.
The EU membership process should be fully based on meritocracy, but we cannot talk about meritocracy as long as Kosovo is not formally assessed as to whether it meets the Copenhagen criteria. Kosovo believes in its European future and as an example of democracy in the region it should be given the opportunity to prove it. We have made our move, we have expressed our interest and we have submitted the EU membership application. I also use this opportunity to invite the EU, respectively the Council of the EU, to mandate the European Commission to make our assessment of the candidate’s status through the questionnaire.
Internal reforms in the rule of law, good governance, economic and social progress, visa liberalization and commitment to regional cooperation confirm that we are taking the right steps on the road to the European future. The removal of punitive measures by the EU would return the motivation and accelerate the reforms even more. This seriousness of commitment will increase many times even further when Kosovo accepts the status of a candidate country, through which Kosovo’s path towards the EU will become even clearer and more tangible. Kosovo has constantly proved that it is an ally of the EU, because it believes in its European future.
Last modified: December 8, 2023