Updated on 11 April 2013
A European Commission feasibility study from October 2012 finds that Kosovo’s current status under international law is not a legal obstacle to the conclusion and implementation of an EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) under Article 218 TFEU. Negotiations on a framework agreement on Kosovo’s participation in EU programmes are ongoing.
Progress on Kosovo’s European path
Although Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain do not recognise Kosovo’s independence, the country is treated by the EU as a potential candidate. It has received financial assistance under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) since 2007. The Commission considers Kosovo “largely ready to open negotiations” on an SAA, but has identified priorities – the rule of law, public administration, protection of minorities, and trade – on which Kosovo needs to make short-term progress before negotiations can begin.
Towards normal relations with Serbia
Launched in March 2011, the EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has led to agreements on freedom of movement, certification of diplomas, land records, civil registration documents, customs stamps, integrated management of crossing points and regional cooperation. Recently, the exchange of liaison officers and a provisional understanding on customs duties, levies and VAT on Serbian goods bound for the north of Kosovo were agreed. Tackling the controversial issue of Serbian-financed “parallel structures” in the north of Kosovo, over which the Kosovo authorities lack control, appears to present the biggest challenge. So far, local Kosovo Serbs have opposed EU-facilitated arrangements, wishing to maintain strong ties with Serbia rather than be integrated in Pristina-controlled structures. The main sticking point of the so far unsuccessful negotiations on the constitution of an association of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo has been the degree of autonomy to be granted to them, particularly as regards executive and judicial powers.
The rule of law in Kosovo
The 2012 European Court of Auditors (ECA) report on EU assistance to Kosovo concludes that the effectiveness of EU aid in improving the rule of law has been very limited, despite Kosovo being the biggest per capita recipient of EU assistance in the world, as well as enjoying the support of the EU’s largest-ever CFSP mission. Progress has been particularly slow in the fight against organised crime and corruption, above all in the north of Kosovo. Limited experience and political interference render investigation of serious crimes ineffective. The absence of a joint database severely hampers cooperation between police and prosecutors. The judiciary continues to face huge problems in dealing with certain types of serious crime due to insufficient expertise, as well as threats and intimidation. Serious election fraud cases in 2010 were neither investigated nor prosecuted with due diligence. Witness protection, particularly in high-profile cases, has been gravely flawed. Formal cooperation with Interpol and Europol is subject to legal restrictions owing to Kosovo’s status and has to be facilitated by the UN (UNMIK) and EU (EULEX) missions respectively. A recent Commission report on Kosovo’s progress towards visa liberalisation underlines the potentially severe impact of these shortcomings on the EU’s internal security. It remains to be seen whether the entry into force of a new court structure, Criminal Code and Criminal Procedural Code in Kosovo on 1 January 2013 will turn the tide.
Stressing that partitioning Kosovo is not an option, a motion for a resolution, tabled by the Foreign Affairs Committee, calls for the dismantling of parallel institutions in the north of Kosovo, such as security services and courts, and for full transparency, in line with the Ahtisaari plan, of funds disbursed by Serbia inter alia for education and healthcare facilities in North Kosovo. It also encourages the five EU Member States which have not recognised Kosovo to do so.