In addition to the general, regionally comparable causes for corruption and organized crime (political upheaval as a result of a change in the political system and Balkan wars, weakness of the rule of law, legal culture), specific causes of systemic corruption and the repeatedly reported entanglement of political elites with organized crime lie in the long absence of a state, di was based primarily on the life of the Kosovar Albanians in an underground system including an underground economy in the 1990’s. Added to this is the existence of northern Kosovo between two states including a porous border.
For so long, the level of corruption in independent Kosovo was comparably higher than in neighboring countries. Meanwhile, Kosovo is in the middle in a regional comparison, e.g. measured by the corruption index of Transparency International. In 2019 Kosovo was in 101st place (out of 180 countries). However, the country has thus almost fallen back to the level of 2015 (102nd place). In the meantime, in 2018, the country improved to 85th place. However, this relapse is overall in line with the regional trend.
Central areas of corruption, in addition to the health and education systems, are the judiciary, in which political influence regularly occurs, as well as public administration in which nepotism, employment according to party membership and the manipulation of public tendering procedures are widespread. Political corruption, for example when filling supervisory boards, is also prevalent in public companies. The Kosovar press regularly reports on corruption scandals in which high-profile party or government representatives are alleged to be involved. So far, however, only a small number of them have been charged and convictions are very rare. Former minister Fatmir Limaj has been charged with corruption several times, among others by EULEX judges, but there was never a conviction. His brother, Florim Limaj, who was in charge of the fight against corruption in the Ministry of the Interior, was also charged with corruption. The case of the prosecutor Nazim Mustafi was similar. The public prosecutor tasked with fighting corruption was sentenced in 2013 by an EULEX court himself to five years in prison – for corruption. Not only local judges, public prosecutors and the police lack the political independence to pursue politically sensitive corruption cases – also the EU rule of law mission EULEX proved to be extremely inefficient in trying high-profile cases of political corruption. In 2017, according to official statistics, the public prosecutor’s offices in Kosovo charged nearly 1,800 people with corruption, 90% of whom were officials. The authorities’ fight against corruption has intensified since the middle of the last decade, especially after the EU made it a central condition for granting visa-free travel. In 2015, an inter-agency task force against politically sensitive corruption and organized crime was created. Up to and including 2018, however, only 27 cases were charged, and a total of 9 people were convicted. In addition, there are far-reaching instruments of political action, B. an action plan as well as an anti-corruption agency. Not least because of the inefficient fight against corruption, two thirds of the population in Kosovo have no confidence in the judiciary or the rule of law.
The government headed by Vetevendosje, which took office in February 2020 and which is perhaps the most central reform project, has committed itself to the consistent fight against corruption, among other things by cleaning up the judiciary and the police and extensive transparency of government activities, and thus the hopes of large parts of the population for one real change.
Detailed reports on corruption in Kosovo from 2004-2007 are provided by UNMIK, for example. The status report on the fight against corruption in Kosovo (2015) by the Kosovo Law Institute or the annual report on corruption 2017 by GAN Integrity are more current. The Council of Europe’s Anti Corruption Digest Kosovo provides a good overview of the topic.
Existing problems in building a functioning judicial system and efficient administration, but also the high level of corruption, influence the exercise of central human rights. The situation in this regard can be classified as difficult. Although there is an anti-discrimination law, there is no consistent application of the law. On the one hand there is a lack of simple complaint procedures and on the other hand there is a lack of public awareness of the problem.
Various examples can be given in this regard.
The development of the human rights of minorities paint a mixed picture. The Ahtissari Plan, which is integrated into the Kosovar constitution, gives the Serb minority special protection based on numerous mechanisms of positive discrimination. Because these concessions by the Kosovar Albanian side did not lead to the intended recognition of Kosovo by Serbia in the international negotiations at the time and the integration of the Kosovar Serbs into the independent state of Kosovo has remained incomplete even in the context of the political dialogue and the dominant Kosovar Serbian policy is the extended arm of Belgrade, the implementation of these minority rights is still incomplete. Kosovo Serbs and the Albanian majority population still live a largely segregated life today, also because Serbs hardly live outside the majority communities or in larger cities. The increased political control of the Serbian majority communities by the government in Belgrade, which was originally not intended as a result of the political dialogue with Serbia and in particular the crisis of this dialogue process, undermines the rule of law and thus poses a greater threat to the rights of Kosovo Serbs (especially, but not only in northern Kosovo) than the incomplete implementation of minority rights by the Kosovar state and the Albanian majority population. The situation is negative for many other minorities, especially the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. Admittedly, progress has been made with regard to the registration and provision of identity documents for these minorities. This facilitates z. B. access to social services or the education system. Overall, however, the living situation of these minorities has not improved sustainably. It is a major player on minorities – European Center for Minority Issues Kosovo.
Sexism is widespread in Kosovo. The Kosovo Women’s Network is a key player on the issue of women’s rights in Kosovo.
The situation in Kosovar prisons is insufficient and, despite improvements (particularly with regard to serious human rights violations), falls short of international standards. The living conditions are considered very bad. Abuse of prisoners was also reported. The level of information among prisoners about rights is low. The situation in psychiatric institutions can be compared to that in prisons.
The social exclusion of lesbians, gays and bisexuals is evident and is expressed in broad homophobia. Homosexuality is a socially taboo subject and is presented – if at all – in public, by parties and the media in a negative way, as incompatible with the values (shaped by the family) of Kosovar society, and openly rejected. So it is not surprising that an atmosphere of fear exists. In Pristina there is a small community of sexual minorities whose interests are supported by the organizations Libertas and Queshbe represented. For the rest of the country it is important to hide the corresponding tendencies, as psychological and physical violence must be expected in smaller towns and cities. Activists do most of their work underground. In 2012, violent attacks occurred in Pristina when the fourth issue of Kosovo 2.0 magazine on the topic of sexuality was presented. The organization Frontline Defenders reports z. B. on harassment and discrimination against members of the LGBT (lesbian – gay – bisexual – transgender) community in local hospitals. Further information is provided by Balkan Insight, Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. In 2017 Kosovo’s first official LGBT Pride Parade was organized in Prishtina. Despite protests from religious-conservative Islamic circles, the parade went without significant incidents, also thanks to strong security by the police, as did the subsequent parade in 2018. A minister, the mayor of Prishtina and numerous Western ambassadors took part, while President Thaçi gave a short address.
National and international actors who deal with the human rights situation in Kosovo and produce relevant information are: Civil Rights Defenders, Organization for Democracy, Anticorruption and Dignity (Çohu), Minority Rights, Human Right House Network, European Center for Minority Issues Kosovo.