- Published: July 10, 2019
Legal Policy Starting Point
The young Republic of Kosovo celebrated its 10th Independence Day in February 2018. Since its independence, the EU has classified Kosovo as a potential accession candidate country with reference to the UN Resolution 1244 (which leaves the final status under international law open). Aiming for EU membership, Kosovo has therefore tackled fundamental reforms under circumstances that have been difficult at times.
As a result, a large number of Kosovar laws have been harmonised with EU standards and many EU regulations and directives have been implemented into national law with the support of numerous international partners, including the IRZ. The Stabilization and Association Agreement, which entered into force on 1 April 2016, has helped to accelerate this process. Accordingly, relevant EU directives and European standards are usually taken into consideration in new legislation projects or legislative amendments.
The conflict over the recognition of Kosovo‘s independence by Serbia continued to cast its shadow over the legal policy starting point in the reporting year. The mediation dialogue led by the EU under the Brussels Agreement has not eased the tension to a significant degree so far. Nevertheless, the Parliament ratified the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro in March with the result that now all 95 criteria for visa liberalisation are fulfilled. The liberalisation has been endorsed by the EU Commission, also in recognition of the progress achieved in fighting organised crime and corruption, but it remains to be seen how quickly it can be implemented as this matter depends on the approval of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council.
Kosovo became a partner state of the IRZ in 2001. Ever since, counselling has been provided in cooperation with long-standing partners within the framework of a large number of bilateral, grant-funded projects in a wide variety of formats. This project work was intensified once again in 2018. Constitutional law and juvenile penitentiary law were the main focus areas of the bilateral cooperation. In regard to constitutional law, the projects conducted by the IRZ together with the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court prioritised ECtHR and ECHR case-law, as well as constitutional complaints. Although citizens already have extraordinary recourse to constitutional complaints in Kosovo, it has not acquired any substantial practical significance so far. Moreover, constitutional complaints have often failed to date due to formalities with the result that there is a lack of seminal case-law.
The IRZ has cooperated with UNICEF Kosovo since 2016 in the area of juvenile penitentiary law. The aim is to improve the situation and perspectives for juvenile inmates after their imprisonment and to establish European standards for a youth-friendly judiciary by means of targeted training. These training courses address the needs of prison staff, judges, public prosecutors and lawyers. Building effective networks between NGOs and the penitentiary system is a declared objective in this context. The IRZ organised active dialogue with the judiciary and juvenile penitentiary system in Lower Saxony and used a number of study trips to Germany to shed light on both the court aspect of juvenile criminal law, as well as the cooperation between the court, public prosecutor‘s office, juvenile detention facility and the probation system. This collaborative approach between the various stakeholders remains quite uncommon in Kosovo. Like so often when dealing with legal reforms, newly introduced provisions under juvenile criminal law require less the adaptation of legal bases, but rather an anchoring in the awareness of legal practitioners as well as implementation in daily practice.
In addition, the IRZ has cooperated with the newly founded Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC) since 2016 and has focused in particular on media liaisons and public relations by the public prosecutor‘s offices and the KPC itself. The training provided in this context draws on a similar programme for the Ministry of Justice that was developed within the IRZ Twinning Project and that seeks to exploit synergy potential and to create a coherent system of media liaisons and public relations within the judiciary.
In addition to its bilateral cooperation measures, the IRZ currently implements EU Twinning Projects in Kosovo (see below).
Foci of Activity in 2018
Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability
- Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, on “Constitutional complaints and current ECHR case-law“ with judges from the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court
- Workshop in Pristina on “The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and ECJ case-law“ with judges from the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court
Administration of Justice
- Seminar on the topic of media liaisons and public relations with staff of the KPC in Pristina
- Study trip to Germany for staff of the KPC on the topic of media liaisons and public relations
Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law
- Training on “Safeguarding the protective rights of juveniles to legal counsel in all phases of court proceedings“ in cooperation with the Kosovo Bar Association in Pristina
- Two training courses for staff of the Kosovar Youth Penitentiary on “Basic and further training as a precondition for the successful resocialisation and reintegration of juveniles in their families and within society“ in Lipjan and Pristina
- Study trip to Germany by a Kosovar delegation on “Child-friendly approach and cooperation between public prosecutor‘s offices in cases involving juveniles, juvenile courts, probationary services and other institutions within the field of juvenile jurisdiction“
- Study trip to Germany by a Kosovar delegation on the topic of preventing criminality and resocialisation for juveniles
Basic and Further Training
- Seminar on “Judiciary and the media“ in Kosovo
- Attendance by Kosovar participants of the 8th “IRZ Summer School on German Law“ in Bonn
Projects funded by the European Union
EU Twinning project: Strengthening Policy Formulation and Legislative Drafting
The EU Twinning Project that has been implemented by the IRZ since October 2016 builds on its positive and long-standing cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of Kosovo. This thirty-month project aims to expand capacities within the Ministry in four sequential and complementary components:
- strategic planning within the judiciary,
- legal harmonisation and legislation,
- judiciary and the media, and
- effective implementation of laws.
The project therefore provides extensive support to various departments within the Ministry of Justice in a number of legal areas and is hence able to respond to current needs. An important issue within the Ministry is the major analysis “Functional Review of the Rule of Law Sector“. A comprehensive study of the legal framework as well as a critical look at the problems in practice are intended to develop suggestions for improvement in the sector. The Twinning Project supports the Ministry of Justice in this process. This includes fundamental issues of legislation technique, legal harmonisation with EU law and efficient implementation of the laws themselves. Within this context, the project consists of training courses on regulatory impact assessments and ex-post evaluations.
Moreover, experts of the project work closely with the Ministry of Justice in the areas of communication, public relations and civil society participation in the process of legislation and in legal policy discussions.
Around forty activities were carried out as part of the Twinning Project in 2018. Internships at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection in Berlin and the Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice in Hannover were organised on the topics of “Strategic planning within the judiciary“ and “Effective application of the law“. The project is scheduled to run until April 2019.
EU Twinning project: Further Support to Legal Education Reform
This Twinning Project was carried out to promote basic and further training within the legal professions in Kosovo in cooperation with the Kosovo Judicial Institute (KJI). The project was implemented together with the Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC) from the Netherlands as the junior partner and was successfully completed in 2018 after a term of 30 months. Its purpose was to improve basic and further legal training, as well as training management at KJI.
For its entire term, the Twinning Project accompanied and supported conversion of the KJI into a Judicial Academy. The priorities of the project were defined in regard to this purpose and, among other things, led to the following outcome, always in close cooperation with the KJI:
- Development of methods to identify training requirements with the aim of improving the quality of basic and further training
- Drafting of guidelines for the basic and further training of legal professionals
- Implementation of train-the-trainer seminars and workshops to improve the competencies of multipliers
- Preparation of a training manual on case-based basic and further training for judges and public prosecutors
- Drafting of a training programme for administrative employees at courts and public prosecutor‘s offices
The KJI database was updated at the same time, also to include proposals and templates for data collection and analysis. After the establishment of the Judicial Academy was completed, the project supported the institution in preparing a strategic plan for the further development of the Academy and its tasks over the coming years.
The cooperation with the IRZ’s long-standing partners such as the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice will be continued and expanded in 2019. In addition, the cooperation with the KPC and with UNICEF Kosovo in the area of juvenile criminal law and penitentiary law will be intensified. The current cooperation with the law enforcement authorities in Lower Saxony will proceed in this area to build on the fruitful, strong, sustained and trusting communication.