Kosovo – annual report 2020

Penitentiary staff and trainees at the Lipjan Correctional Center attending the online seminar on “Dealing with drug-addicted juveniles in the enforcement system: diagnostics, planning and treatment”: Afrim Beqa (end of the table, on the left), Director of the Lipjan Correctional Center
Penitentiary staff and trainees at the Lipjan Correctional Center attending the online seminar on “Dealing with drug-addicted juveniles in the enforcement system: diagnostics, planning and treatment”: Afrim Beqa (end of the table, on the left), Director of the Lipjan Correctional Center

Strategic Framework 

Legal Policy Starting Point 

The year 2020 presented Kosovo with significant challenges, not all of them associated with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Kosovo has pursued a reform course with the goal of EU membership since the Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in 2016. However, the situation is complicated by both foreign and domestic political tensions. The conflict surrounding the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Serbia continues to cast its shadow over necessary progress in the country’s foreign policy. However, the EU-led mediation dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo produced results this year inasmuch as Kosovo and Serbia resumed the direct talks that had been on hold since November 2018.

The volatile domestic situation was further exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic in 2020. Following the early parliamentary elections at the end of 2019, the strongest force, the left-wing nationalist movement “Vetëvendosje” (Self-Determination), and the second strongest party in parliament, the conservative Democratic League (LDK), agreed to form a coalition. But the government was dissolved when the LDK filed a no-confidence motion of censure against the joint government shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plans to hold new elections that were initially postponed because of the pandemic were ultimately abandoned. Prompted by the then President Hashim Thaci of the Partia Demokratike e Kosovës (PDK), the LDK formed a new governing alliance with other parties; the current head of government is Avdullah Hoti from the LDK. President Hashim Thaci resigned in November after being indicted by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office of the Kosovo War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the Kosovo war.

Kosovo is remaining true to its reform course, despite these political tensions. This also enabled the launch of a comprehensive EU Grant Project at the end of 2020, which takes a holistic advisory approach and aims to achieve extensive reforms of Kosovo’s judicial system in line with European and international standards.

Overall Concept 

For many years, cooperation with Kosovo has taken place within the framework of funding from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Federal Foreign Office, as well as under various EU projects. The COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 a particularly challenging year for IRZ also, as it became impossible to conduct the intensive, direct professional exchange by means of training events and working visits for Kosovar partner institutions as usual. Nevertheless, the quick switch to digital formats enabled cooperation to continue with all partners.

The priorities of bilateral cooperation were juvenile criminal law, media law and basic and further training. Three events in different regions involved an exchange of experience on probation with a focus on juvenile criminal law, in which Kosovar judges, public prosecutors and lawyers participated in addition to representatives of the Probation Service, which is affiliated to the Kosovar Ministry of Justice. Two further training events on working with young people with drug addictions and mental disorders were held in cooperation with the Kosovo Correctional Service at the Ministry of Justice.

A manual on crisis communication was developed for the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC), in addition to continued advice in the area of press and public relations.

Besides measures involved in the bilateral cooperation, IRZ has been implementing the Grant project on judicial reform since 2020. The scheduled start of the newly acquired EU Twinning Project on “Strengthening the Information and Privacy Agency in Kosovo” was postponed until 2021.

Focus of Activity in 2020 

Administration of Justice 

  • Online seminar on public relations and crisis communication and development of a manual with a subsequent workshop

Criminal and Penitentiary Law

  • Online seminar for lawyers on juveniles in criminal proceedings
  • Three online roundtable discussions on cross-sectoral cooperation in the area of probation for the regions of Pristina, Prizren and Mitrovica
  • Two online seminars on young people with drug addictions and mental disorders in cooperation with the Kosovo Correctional Service at the Ministry of Justice

Basic and Further Training 

  • Four online further training courses in cooperation with the Kosovo Judicial Academy on the basics of European law, international cooperation in criminal matters, cybercrime and money laundering

Projects funded by the European Union 

EU Grant Project: “Kosovo Justice Sector Programme”

IRZ launched the “Kosovo Justice Sector Programme” in October 2020 as another comprehensive EU-funded judicial reform programme in a Western Balkan country. Endowed with a project budget of € 7 million and running for 40 months, it is one of several major EU projects in the region, like EURALIUS in Albania. The cooperation partners are the Croatian Ministry of Justice and the Center for International Legal Cooperation (CILC) in the Netherlands. The project was awarded in May 2020 and its start was scheduled for 1 October 2020 due to the pandemic.

The overarching objective of the project is to continue the harmonisation of Kosovo’s judicial system in line with European and international standards. The project will build on the broad progress that Kosovo has already achieved in its reform efforts with the support of numerous international partners. It is intended to create a framework for improved coordination of further necessary reforms and, above all, to achieve more effective cooperation between the various actors within the judicial system in Kosovo. In addition to ongoing strengthening and further training of the legal professions and consolidating Kosovo’s legal framework in line with the EU acquis, the project also aims to facilitate access to the judiciary for all sections of the country’s population.

The project is divided into four thematic areas and is being implemented by a large international project team led by a German lawyer. Tasks during the three-month start-up phase included recruitment of local project staff, creation of the project infrastructure, establishment of contacts with the project partners, embassies, other donor organisations and ongoing projects, as well as concretize the definition of activity planning in view of the current circumstances.

EU Twinning Project: “Strengthening the Information and Privacy Agency in Kosovo”

The start of the Twinning Project “Strengthening the Information and Privacy Agency in Kosovo”, for which the IRZ was awarded the contract in November 2019 as a junior partner alongside the Latvian Ministry of Justice, has again been delayed. Endowed with a budget of € 2 million and scheduled to run for 30 months, the project is designed to build the capacity of Kosovo’s Information and Privacy Agency and to improve public awareness of data protection and access to public information. The principles of Twinning projects require close cooperation between the project participants. This includes daily presence by the project partners from the Member State for the duration of the project implementation to ensure an intense technical exchange with the experts on the ground. As the project launch was not possible during the reporting year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the start was postponed to the coming year.


In 2021, IRZ will continue to pursue a flexible approach in Kosovo that is geared to the needs of the partner state and will maintain its course of intense and sustainable exchange with partner institutions. Depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic develops, there are plans to return to face-to-face events in order to better involve important partners, such as the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, in the cooperation and to revive event formats based on face-to-face communication. Cooperation with the various departments of the Kosovar Ministry of Justice, the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC), UNICEF Kosovo and the Judicial Academy will continue in close coordination with the Grant project in order to avoid duplicate work and to leverage the collective impact.