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.

Outlook

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.

Kosovo - annual report 2019

Internship in Germany on the subject of the juvenile penitentiary system: Trainers at the Kosovar juvenile penitentiary in discussion with their German colleagues
Internship in Germany on the subject of the juvenile penitentiary system: Trainers at the Kosovar juvenile penitentiary in discussion with their German colleagues

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Kosovo continued on its reform path in 2019 under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which entered into force in 2016 and which aims at achieving EU membership. Some of the underlying conditions for this development were difficult for the youngest state in the Western Balkans in terms of domestic and foreign policy. The conflict surrounding Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo‘s independence continued to cast its shadow over the country‘s foreign policy. The mediation dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo conducted by the EU has not been successful so far. Serbia continues to insist that North Kosovo be annexed to Serbia, while Kosovo categorically refuses any changes in its borders. This is also the position of the future government that is expected to be headed by Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Domestically, the legal policy starting point in Kosovo was determined by the early parliamentary elections on 6 October 2019. The third parliamentary election within five years had become necessary after the then ruling Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj of the Democratic Party (PDK) announced his resignation in summer 2019. This was preceded by Haradinaj‘s summons to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor‘s Office in The Hague. The court was established in 2015 to investigate alleged crimes in the armed conflict between Serbia and the Kosovar UÇK, in which Haradinaj had been a commander. Following the parliamentary elections, the left-wing nationalist movement “Vetëvendosje“ (Self-determination) was confirmed as the winner at the end of November. The expected Prime Minister Albin Kurti has stated his intention to concentrate on reforming the rule of law.

Despite the paralysis on the domestic front caused by early elections, many Kosovar laws were adapted to EU standards during the reporting year. However, the large number of international actors providing counselling services in Kosovo remains problematic. Responding to this, a comprehensive EU grant project will start in 2020, which will pursue a similarly holistic counselling approach as the EURALIUS project in Albania.

Overall Concept

Kosovo became a partner state of IRZ in 2001. Since then, IRZ has provided counselling services with long-standing partners in various formats, both within the framework of EU-financed and bilateral grantfunded projects. 2019 saw a further intensification of project work, even if some of the planned projects that IRZ was seeking to continue with the Ministry of Justice on a bilateral level after completion of the Twinning project could no longer take place due to the new elections.

The priorities of bilateral cooperation in 2019 were juvenile penitentiary law and the training of press spokespersons from all Kosovo‘s public prosecutor‘s offices.

Together with UNICEF Kosovo, IRZ has been providing advice on juvenile penitentiary law since 2016. The aim is to sustainably improve the situation in Kosovo‘s juvenile penitentiary system and to establish European standards for a youth-friendly judiciary system. In order to pursue a holistic approach, the target groups for IRZ training in this context are not only the prison staff themselves, but also judges, public prosecutors and lawyers. The effective networking of non-governmental organisations with the penitentiary system is another priority objective. German partner in this active exchange with the Kosovar judiciary is the judiciary of Lower Saxony and the juvenile penitentiary system there. Together with the latter, an internship in Hameln and Göttingen was organised in 2019 with the aim of training Kosovar trainers in the juvenile penitentiary system.

At the same time, IRZ began talks with Kosovar decision-makers with a view to creating a legal framework that would enable the sale of products produced in the penitentiary system. This is the only way to ensure that products manufactured as part of basic and further training of young prisoners generate income which can then be invested in education.

In addition, IRZ continues to cooperate closely with the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC) in order to establish professional media liaisons and public relations departments at 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 an 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.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Administration of Justice

  • Three seminars on “Media liaisons and public relations“ for Kosovar press officers, public prosecutors and the KPC in Pristina, Mitrovica,  Prizren and Ferizaj

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Workshop “Protective measures for child victims and witnesses of criminal offences“ for judges and public prosecutors
  • Training “Safeguarding the protective rights of young people in legal representation in all phases of court proceedings“ for lawyers in cooperation with the Kosovo Bar Association in Pristina
  • Two trainings on the topic of “Basic and further training as a prerequisite for successful resocialisation and reintegration of young people into families and society“ for employees of Lipjan Correctional and Lipjan Educational Center
  • Internship by a Kosovar delegation in Germany on the subject of “Basic training in the juvenile penitentiary system“
  • Preparation of commentaries on bilateral agreements between Kosovo and various EU and non-EU states in the field of international criminal law cooperation

Basic and Further Training

  • Participation of Kosovar participants in the “IRZ Summer School on German Law“ in Bonn
  • Participation of one Kosovar participant in the Goethe Institute language course “German for legal professionals“

Projects funded by the European Union

EU Twinning Project: Strengthening policy formulation and legislative drafting

The EU Twinning Project “Strengthening policy formulation and legislative drafting“ was brought to a successful conclusion in June 2019 after having been extended by four months at the request of the Kosovar Ministry of Justice. During the closing ceremony in Pristina on 16 May, Kosovo‘s Minister of Justice Abelard Tahiri once again underlined the importance of the project for the country‘s major goal of joining the EU. The project, carried out by IRZ in cooperation with the Kosovar Ministry of Justice since October 2016, had a term of 32 months and was intended to support the Kosovar Ministry of Justice in achieving legal harmonisation and legislation consistent with EU law.

In the final months of the project, a particular priority was placed on supporting the Ministry in the “Functional Review of the Rule of Law Sector“, a large-scale analysis of the judicial sector from the perspective of the EU alignment process. Among other things, the close cooperation with the Kosovo Ministry of Justice produced some draft legislation on private international law and civil legal assistance, as well as in comments on criminal legal assistance. Moreover, Ministry staff were trained in regulatory impact assessments and ex-post evaluation based on concrete examples. There was also a regular exchange of experience on communication and public relations with experts from various European countries.

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

In November 2019, IRZ – acting as the junior partner under the Latvian Ministry of Justice – was awarded the contract for the EU Twinning Project “Strengthening the Information and Privacy Agency in Kosovo“. The project aims at strengthening the capacity of the Kosovo Information and Privacy Agency and improving public awareness of data protection and access to public information. The project has a budget of €2 million and a term of 30 months. The project is scheduled to start in September 2020.

Outlook

IRZ will continue its established cooperation with its long-term partners in 2020. These include, in particular, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice. In addition, IRZ also intends to continue working with the KPC and, in the area of juvenile criminal law and juvenile penitentiary, with UNICEF Kosovo. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the planned Kosovo Grant project will cover these issues, as this might result in a duplication of activities. It follows, therefore, that IRZ will continue to pursue a flexible approach in Kosovo over 2020, one that is tailored to the needs of the country and focuses on sustainable and trusting dialogue with the Kosovar institutions.

Kosovo - annual report 2018

Participants at the joint conference of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court on the topic of “Constitutional complaints and current ECHR case-law“
Participants at the joint conference of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court on the topic of “Constitutional complaints and current ECHR case-law“

Strategic Framework

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.

Overall Concept

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.

Outlook

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.