This year’s Progress Report for Kosovo was fascinatingly predictable. The country is praised for progress achieved in all three areas where the European Union had direct involvement or interest, while criticism persisted in key areas of governance.
In a nutshell, the report says the country made progress in the dialogue with Serbia, which is facilitated by the EU High Representative, in organizing free and fair elections, an achievement for which the dialogue is directly credited, and in extending the mandate of the EU rule of law mission (EULEX). It stagnated when it comes to independence of judiciary, politicisation of public administration and independent state institutions as well as the overall democratic spirit of governance, with the key result of the latter being the post-election stalemate. Economic stagnation, especially when put in a regional comparative perspective, is the most worrying one.
Although the indicators of success for the first three areas are evidently there and quite undeniable, one can still sense a dose of subjectivity of the Commission based on the way they were pointed out. The report gently acknowledges lack of concrete results from the dialogue with Serbia and its sustainability due to problems with the implementation of the reached agreements but does not take it into account for overall progress rated in this process for which Kosovo and Serbia are generally praised.
Similarly, Kosovo is praised for having organised better elections than the ones of 2010 that were characterised by industrial-scale fraud, and for having succeeding in organising elections throughout its territory. This by all means stands, but the lack of real choices for the Serb community in Kosovo as well as large-scale fraud which jeopardised real representation of smaller parties that had no support from the government of Serbia are somehow minimised.
The co-operation with EULEX is to some extent exaggerated as progress as it was a result of the EU’s persistence, and, probably, the lack of the overall success of the mission too. The only issue where Kosovo made substantial progress but where the EU is not ready to act yet – the Visa Liberalisation process – was quietly described with dull sentences lacking any kind of analysis or insights.
The latter is, of course, depending directly on the political willingness of the EU member states, and, when one reads the other areas where according to the Report Kosovo made little or no progress, it doesn’t come as a surprise. This is because the Kosovo government continued to interfere with the judiciary and failed to fight corruption and organised crime. The highly prioritised special anti-corruption task force filed only 5 cases during last year while interference with ongoing investigations persisted. Politicisation of the public administration persisted while accountability and service delivery made ‘very limited progress’.
The main stagnation, however, doesn’t require many words to describe. Four months after the June 8 elections, political parties continue to block the institutional life, having failed to establish the parliament and form the government. Although the Report is cautious not to take sides in this straightforward political petty-fight, it contains genuine criticism for both political groups. There is a good dose of criticism for Kosovo’s Constitutional Court too, due to its failure to ‘break the impasse’ with its two judgments on the matter.
The most important stagnation for Kosovo population is by all means the one in economic development. As the Report rightly notes, the pursuit of market-oriented policies ‘slowed down’ and ‘the predictability of economic policies weakened as a result of ad hoc approaches in policymaking’. Labour market policies were insufficient, public revenues declined, and the government’s pre-election decision to raise public wages has damaged the credibility of fiscal policy to say the least.
Overall, the Report reads that Kosovo made little progress towards the EU during the last year. As the incumbent government is likely to praise itself for such wording, it should be clear that ‘little progress’ in such a context means much, much worse than the country could do. The structure of the report leads one to conclude that the country continues to produce too much politics and too few policies.
This entry was originally published at the LSEE Blog.