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Kosovo - annual report 2017

Published: June 1, 2018
Workshop with staff members of the juvenile penitentiary centre in Lipjan on reforming and modernising young offenders’ institutions
Workshop with staff members of the juvenile penitentiary centre in Lipjan on reforming and modernising young offenders’ institutions

Legal Policy Situation

The Republic of Kosovo has made progress on its path of reforms, particularly in the judiciary, which is also recognised accordingly in the current EU Progress Report of 2016. At the same time, however, it is pointed out that further efforts are required to reform the rule of law. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo, signed in 2015, also promotes further ties with the EU. It represents a comprehensive set of rules for further political dialogue and mutual economic relations. This enabled the Republic of Kosovo, which was declared a potential candidate country by the EU Commission in 2008 with reference to UN Resolution 1244 (which leaves the final status open under international law), to take a further important step towards approximation to the EU.

Nevertheless, the young Republic of Kosovo faces enormous challenges. The domestic political situation remains fragile. In June 2017, following a vote of no confidence in parliament, new elections were held during which the previously ruling coalition suffered great losses. The new government was formed following tough negotiations and major concessions to smaller coalition partners in a large party alliance with a narrow parliamentary majority. The new Prime Minister is Ramush Haradinaj, who was Prime Minister for a short time already in 2004.

The new elections also led to a personnel change in the Ministry of Justice, so that the judicial reform strategy, proposed by former Justice Minister Hoxha, has not yet been continued.

The international recognition and independence of Kosovo continues to play a decisive role both in domestic as well as in foreign policy. Serbia does not recognise the independence of its former province. However, the mediation dialogue that has been conducted under the sponsorship of the EU for years is a prerequisite for Serbia and Kosovo to be able to move closer to the EU. Some problems have been resolved at the negotiating table, but much of it has not yet been implemented.

Overall Concept

Kosovo has already been a partner state of the IRZ since 2001. Ever since, a large number of bilateral measures have been organised and implemented successfully in a wide variety of formats. Over the years, the IRZ has intensified its existing contacts with partners such as the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kosovo and the Faculty of Law at Pristina University through workshops, seminars, study trips and discussion rounds. Since 2016, the IRZ has also been working with the newly founded Kosovo Prosecutorial Council and since 2017 with the Kosovo Bar Association. The main focus of the work with these partners is on advising on constitutional law, European law, ECHR case-law and general questions of the organisation (e. g. questions of basic and further training for the practitioners of law). The area of juvenile penitentiary law was also added in the year under review, which forms a further pillar of cooperation. In cooperation with UNICEF Kosovo and the Ministry of Justice, the IRZ advises prison staff, judges, prosecutors and lawyers. The aim is a holistic approach to the communication and implementation of reforms in the penitentiary system.

In addition to bilateral cooperation, the IRZ is currently also implementing measures in the form of EU Twinning projects in Kosovo (see below).

Foci of Activity 2017

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

Administration of Justice

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law In cooperation with UNICEF Kosovo:

Basic and Further Training

Projects financed by the European Union

EU Twinning Project: Further Support to Legal Education Reform

The objectives and priorities of this Twinning project are closely linked to the development of the judicial sector in Kosovo. The demands to be made on the improvement of basic and further training and the specific content to be prepared for them depend largely on the progress of the negotiations between Kosovo and the EU (Stability and Association Agreement and the European Agenda for Reform 2016) and the process of rapprochement between Kosovo and Serbia (Brussels Agreement 2013 and subsequent dialogue process) but also on the internal constitution of Kosovo itself.

On 24 February 2017, the Act on establishing the Kosovo Judicial Academy came into force, replacing the Kosovo Institute of Justice. In the same month, this project organised a study visit for the heads of the two Councils of Judges and Prosecutors, the President of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Executive Director of the Judicial Academy and other leading representatives of the Kosovo judiciary in Berlin and Brandenburg to present the fundamentals of German judicial basic and further training.

Since then, project work has focused on three main areas: strategy and organisational development of the Academy, reform of the legal traineeship for the judges and prosecutors (Initial Training Program) as well as drafting a basic and further training programme for administrative staff at courts and prosecutors’ offices. The legal traineeship training is still very academic and is of too little practical relevance.

Since May 2017, monthly workshops and round-table discussions with judges and prosecutors have been held to discuss and test the fundamentals of case-based training. Concrete court documents from Kosovo are being employed for this purpose, translated, didactically transformed and used as training material in “Train-the-Trainer” seminars. The final aim is to produce a training manual that will provide the younger generation of judges and prosecutors with new, more practical opportunities for basic and further training.

EU Twinning Project: Strengthening policy formulation and legislative drafting

This Twinning project has the overarching objective of supporting further rapprochement between the Republic of Kosovo and the EU Acquis.

At the end of 2016, the kick-off event took place and the basis both for the organisation as well as the content was developed for the project in Pristina. Further work on the content could begin in 2017. Various activities have been implemented that are allocated to the following four components:

A large number of different activities were carried out to implement these components, with the focus on employees of the Ministry of Justice. These included, among other things, a study trip by a Kosovar delegation to the Ministry of Justice of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia or the preparation of a comparative analysis in the field of judicial reform and strategic planning in the EU.

An important part of the project team’s work regarding the content and organisation in Pristina consisted of networking and coordinating with other projects on site in order to avoid overlaps and to generate synergy effects. The implementation of the project was delayed by the new elections in June 2017, as there were difficulties initially in forming a government.

The project is scheduled to run for two years and has a budget of around EUR 1.25 million.

Outlook

Cooperation with the IRZ’s long-standing partners such as the Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the two Councils for Judges (KJC) and Public Prosecutors (KPC) and the Kosovo Judicial Academy are to be continued and intensified in 2018. In addition, the new cooperation with the KPC and in the area of juvenile criminal law and the penitentiary system with UNICEF Kosovo will be intensified and form a further pillar of the cooperation. The aim here is to continue the existing cooperation with the correctional system in Lower Saxony in order to ensure a continued intensive, lasting and trusting exchange of information.

In 2018, the EU’s Twinning projects will focus on the areas of basic and further training of judges, prosecutors and legal practitioners as well as advising the Ministry of Justice on issues of strategic orientation, legislative procedures and public relations.