Prishtina, 16 October 2013 – Samuel Žbogar, the Head of the European Union Office in Kosovo and EU Special Representative, presented the main findings of the Kosovo 2013 Progress Report during the press conference in the European Union Information and Cultural Centre in Pristina. He spoke immediately after Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Štefan Füle presented it at a press conference in the European Commission in Brussels, explaining why this year’s motto is Fundamentals first.
“What is fundamental? Rule of law, fight against corruption but also economic issues, competitiveness, we want the candidate countries joining the EU to be ready also in the economic terms”, Füle said.
Žbogar also started his press conference with the economy by saying that “Kosovo needs to improve its competitiveness and business environment, and support the private sector so as to reduce unemployment”.
The main accents of this year’s Progress Report as presented by Mr. Žbogar are the following ones:
Over the past twelve months Kosovo’s European perspective has gained considerable momentum. Kosovo has delivered on important policy reforms. It met the short-term priorities of the feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo on the rule of law, public administration, protection of minorities and trade. It adopted legislation important for the visa liberalisation dialogue.
Kosovo has actively and constructively worked towards a visible and sustainable improvement of relations with Serbia: in April, it concluded the “First agreement of principles governing the normalisation of relations” complemented in May by an implementation plan. Openness and inclusiveness of Kosovo towards all its citizens continue to be the key to this success.
The Commission is already providing financial support for the implementation of various Dialogue agreements (Civil Registry, Diploma Recognition, Cadastre, IBM). Following the First agreement of principles governing the normalisation of the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, EU has made available additional funds to support the implementation of the First agreement. A package of assistance for an amount of €15 million is under preparation.
Žbogar underlined that, in order to make the EU path sustainable, “Kosovo needs to continue the normalisation of its relations with Serbia – implement the existing agreements and conclude new ones.”
The local elections scheduled for 3 November will be an important test for all involved and for democracy in Kosovo. Therefore, it is crucial they are democratic, inclusive and free. Kosovo needs to urgently complete electoral reform in preparation for the general elections, building on European best practice, and to strengthen the work of the Assembly.
The EU encourages the key judicial institutions, the Judicial and Prosecutorial Councils, to strongly respond to attacks against judges and prosecutors, and assert the independence of the judiciary. Other Kosovo institutions need to refrain from interfering with the work of the judiciary.
The rule of law remains one of the key challenges. Kosovo needs to provide concrete evidence of results in the fight against organised crime and corruption. Law enforcement and judiciary need to ensure that violent incidents against the media and minority communities, including LGBTI, are thoroughly and promptly investigated, prosecuted and the perpetrators convicted.
At the end of his presentation the Head of the European Union Office in Kosovo and EU Special Representative congratulated Kosovo for “maintaining and strengthening broad political consensus on its European perspective”.
Reflecting the progress, in June the Council authorised opening of the negotiations on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Kosovo is well prepared for the negotiations; it has set-up the negotiating team, identified its priorities and interests. The first round of negotiations will take place on 28 October and EU hopes to end them in the spring next year.
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