On 27 October 2015, Kosovo set a milestone on its path towards a European future by signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), constituting this way the first contractual relationship between the EU and Kosovo and completing the map of SAA with all Western Balkan countries.
The Republic of Kosovo, is the youngest country in the region and the last one not having contractual relationship with the European Union (EU). Today a democratic and multi-ethnic Republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law and working on its path towards the EU accession. The signed Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with EU on 27 October 2015, is a milestone on Kosovo’s path towards a European future as this agreement constitutes the first contractual relationship between the EU and Kosovo which provides a comprehensive framework for closer political dialogue and economic relations between both parties.
Although Kosovo has demonstrated its commitment to the normalization of relations with Serbia by reaching a number of key agreements and important decisions have also been taken in other area, the country is still dealing with many struggles. The government has increased its focus on reform of the public administration, which has reached some level of preparation. Good progress was made in advancing the legal and strategic framework. The continued politicization of the public administration, however, is a major concern. However, Kosovo’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation and often is prone to political interference.
Kosovo is also at an early stage of preparations in the fight against corruption and organized crime where a comprehensive and strategic approach is necessary to ensure real results in fighting the endemic corruption and a track record of successful prosecution and convictions remains to be established. The legislative and institutional framework remains fragmented and partly ineffective and the public broadcaster is vulnerable to political pressure and lacks sustainable funding.
Kosovo is at an early stage of alignment with European standards, including in the areas of public procurement, statistics and financial control. Legislative alignment in some areas is high but implementation is weak. Some progress was made in the area of public procurement, especially as regards the enforcement of a centralized public procurement system, but concerns about corruption persist. As regards financial control, some progress was made, especially in external audit. However, significant efforts are needed to implement public internal financial control throughout the administration and in state-owned enterprises.
Just as other countries in the region, Kosovo has been affected by serious breaches of human rights issues such as the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and radicalization, human trafficking, and other serious crimes. Some progress was made in regard to guaranteeing the protection of human and fundamental rights in line with European standards, although Kosovo cannot currently formally associate itself with international human rights instruments or institutions.
Implementation of human rights is hindered by a lack of resources and political commitment, including at local level. Although Kosovo’s Constitution provides for the direct applicability in Kosovo of many international human rights instruments, which form an integral part of its legal framework, The human rights strategy needs to be updated mainly because human rights issues need increased political and financial commitment at all levels.