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Procedure : 2022/2201(INI)
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Document selected : A9-0174/2023

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PV 09/05/2023 - 19
CRE 09/05/2023 - 19

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PV 10/05/2023 - 9.57

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Texts adopted
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Wednesday, 10 May 2023 - Strasbourg
2022 Report on Kosovo

European Parliament resolution of 10 May 2023 on the 2022 Commission Report on Kosovo (2022/2201(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and Kosovo, of the other part(1), which entered into force on 1 April 2016,

–  having regard to the framework agreement between the European Union and Kosovo on the general principles for the participation of Kosovo in Union programmes, in force since 1 August 2017(2),

–  having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Thessaloniki European Council meeting of 19-20 June 2003,

–   having regard to the Sofia declaration adopted at the EU-Western Balkans summit of 17 May 2018,

–  having regard to the Zagreb Declaration adopted at the EU-Western Balkans summit of 6 May 2020,

–  having regard to the Brdo Declaration of the EU-Western Balkans summit of 6 October 2021,

–  having regard to the Tirana Declaration adopted at the EU-Western Balkans summit of 6 December 2022,

–  having regard to the Berlin Process launched on 28 August 2014, and to the 8th Berlin Process Summit of 5 July 2021,

–  having regard to the Sofia Summit of 10 November 2020, including the Declaration on Common Regional Market and the Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans,

–   having regard to Kosovo’s application for membership of the Council of Europe of 12 May 2022,

–  having regard to Kosovo’s application to join the European Union of 14 December 2022,

–  having regard to the Energy Community Treaty of 20 July 2006(3) and the Council Decision of 29 May 2006 on the conclusion by the European Community of the Energy Community Treaty(4),

–  having regard to the Declaration on Energy Security and Green Transition in the Western Balkans and the agreements on freedom of movement and the recognition of professional and higher-education qualifications adopted at the Berlin Process Summit for the Western Balkans of 3 November 2022,

–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999, to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion of 22 July 2010 on the accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo, and to UN General Assembly Resolution 64/298 of 9 September 2010, which acknowledged the content of the ICJ opinion and welcomed the EU’s readiness to facilitate dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo,

–  having regard to the first agreement on principles governing the normalisation of relations between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo of 19 April 2013, to the agreements of 25 August 2015, and to the ongoing EU-facilitated dialogue for the normalisation of relations,

–  having regard to the agreement on free movement between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo of 27 August 2022, and to the agreement on licence plates of 23 November 2022, as well as the Energy Agreements’ Implementation Roadmap in the EU-facilitated Dialogue of 21 June 2022,

–  having regard to the Brussels Agreement of 27 February 2023 and the Ohrid Agreement of 18 March 2023 and to the Implementation Annex thereto,

–  having regard to Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/904 of 3 June 2021 amending Joint Action 2008/124/CFSP on the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo)(5), which extended the mission’s mandate until 14 June 2023,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 5 February 2020 entitled ‘Enhancing the accession process – A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans’ (COM(2020)0057),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2021/1529 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 September 2021 establishing the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA III)(6),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 6 October 2020 entitled ‘An Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans’ (COM(2020)0641), and the Commission staff working document of 6 October 2020 entitled ‘Guidelines for the Implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans’ (SWD(2020)0223),

–  having regard to the Commission assessment of 27 April 2022 on the economic reform programme of Kosovo for 2022-2024 (SWD(2022)0126), and to the joint conclusions of the economic and financial dialogue between the EU and the Western Balkans and Turkey adopted by the Council on 24 May 2022,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 12 October 2022 entitled ‘2022 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy’ (COM(2022)0528), accompanied by the Commission staff working document entitled ‘Kosovo 2022 Report’ (SWD(2022)0334),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 29 April 2020 entitled ‘Support to the Western Balkans in tackling COVID-19 and the post-pandemic recovery’ (COM(2020)0315),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 4 May 2016 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Kosovo) (COM(2016)0277), and to its position of 28 March 2019, adopted at first reading, on that Commission proposal(7),

–  having regard to the final report of the European Union Election Observation Mission on the 2021 municipal elections in Kosovo,

–  having regard to the fourth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between the European Union and Kosovo held in Brussels on 7 December 2021,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 13 December 2022 on enlargement and the stabilisation and association process, in particular the Council’s support for visa liberalisation for Kosovo,

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors Special Report 01/2022 of 10 January 2022 entitled ‘EU support for the rule of law in the Western Balkans: despite efforts, fundamental problems persist’,

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors Special Report 09/2021 of 3 June 2021 entitled ‘Disinformation affecting the EU: tackled but not tamed’,

–  having regard to the memorandum following the mission of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, to Kosovo from 30 May to 3 June 2022(8),

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Kosovo,

–  having regard to its recommendation of 19 June 2020 to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the Western Balkans, following the 2020 summit(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2022 on the 2021 Commission Report on Kosovo(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2021 on cooperation on the fight against organised crime in the Western Balkans(11),

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 23 and 24 June 2022 on Ukraine, the membership applications of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, Western Balkans and external relations,

–  having regard to the declaration and recommendations adopted at the ninth meeting of the EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee, held on 3 and 4 November 2022,

–   having regard to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mission in Kosovo’s report on ‘Protection of Cultural Heritage in Kosovo’ published in July 2022,

–   having regard to the Global Corruption Perception Index 2022 published by Transparency International on 31 January 2023,

–   having regard to the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities,

–  having regard to the joint declaration of the Second European Parliament-Western Balkans Speakers’ Summit of 28 June 2021, convened by its President with the leaders of the Western Balkan parliaments,

–  having regard to its recommendation of 23 November 2022 to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy concerning the new EU strategy for enlargement(12),

–  having regard to Rule 54 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A9-0174/2023),

A.  whereas enlargement has historically been the most effective EU foreign policy instrument, one of the EU’s most successful policies to incentivise and encourage fundamental reforms, including in the rule of law area, and a geostrategic investment in long-term peace, stability, and security throughout the continent;

B.  whereas its effectiveness has considerably decreased over recent years due to a failure from the EU side to live up to its promises and due to a lack of genuine political will to advance fundamental reforms by some of the political leaders of the enlargement countries;

C.  whereas 20 years ago in Thessaloniki, but also and more recently in the Tirana Summit, the EU gave full commitment to membership for WB6 and called for an accelerated accession process; whereas the EU’s lack of credibility over the past few years in its enlargement policy has created a breeding ground for malign third actors in the Western Balkans region, in particular Russia and China;

D.  whereas all countries aspiring to become a Member State will be judged on their own progress and merits in terms of fulfilment, implementation and compliance with the set of criteria and common European values;

E.  whereas the new enlargement momentum sparked by the EU membership application of Eastern partnership countries has prompted the EU to accelerate the long-overdue deliveries to the Western Balkans by making decisions on starting of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, and granting of candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina;

F.  whereas the future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union;

G.  whereas the recent developments, in particular the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, have shown that non-enlargement has a massive strategic cost and can undermine security and stability on our continent;

H.  whereas some of the countries in the Western Balkan region display a great vulnerability to destabilisation, which is exploited by third countries and is already happening in many enlargement countries; whereas the stability, security and democratic resilience of the Western Balkans are inextricably linked to the EU’s own security, stability and democratic resilience;

I.  whereas the political leaders in all Member States, as well as in the enlargement countries, need to prove their genuine commitment to enlargement with concrete steps and progress, ensuring its continuity, consistency, credibility and impact;

J.  whereas the EU is the largest provider of financial support to Kosovo, notably from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, having provided over EUR 1,2 billion since its inception in 2007;

K.  whereas the European Union is Kosovo’s biggest donor, trading partner and investor; whereas the EU supports Kosovo’s commitment to European integration, notably through the IPA III, Economic Plan for the Western Balkans and Macro-Financial Assistance;

Commitment to EU accession

1.  Welcomes Kosovo’s application for EU membership, which reflects the continued pro-European orientation of its citizens, an overwhelming cross-party consensus on EU integration and a clear geopolitical strategic choice; calls on the Member States to give the Commission a mandate to present the questionnaire without further delay and to prepare an opinion on the merits of the country’s application; calls for European institutions to provide institutional support for reforms improving the daily lives of Kosovar citizens;

2.  Welcomes the declarations of support for Kosovo’s application for EU membership by governmental representatives from Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden;

3.  Welcomes the long-awaited agreement on granting visa liberalisation to the citizens of Kosovo, to enter into force no later than 1 January 2024; urges the Commission and the Council to avoid any further delays; reiterates that the European Parliament repeatedly called on the Member States in the Council to proceed with its adoption as Kosovo has fulfilled all the benchmarks since 2018;

4.  Regrets that this short-sighted blockade in the Council, driven by internal considerations of some Member States, has hampered the credibility of the enlargement policy, contradicting its merit-based approach, increased pessimism and negative views among the population regarding the EU and Kosovo’s perspective for accession and decreased the EU’s political leverage for supporting reforms in the country, which can now hopefully be overcome; commends Kosovo’s achievements in its fight against corruption and organised crime and management of migration;

5.  Urges the Member States that have not yet recognised Kosovo as a sovereign state, notably Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania and Greece, to do so without further delay and thus allow it to progress on its European path on an equal footing with candidate countries; stresses its concern that some Member States are using institutional tools to complicate the integration progress in the region, including for Kosovo;

6.  Recalls its position that the independence of the Republic of Kosovo is irreversible; welcomes the fact that Israel recognised Kosovo on 4 September 2020; encourages countries that have recognised Kosovo as an independent state and have not yet established diplomatic relations to do so;

7.  Welcomes the longest period of political stability to date following the 2021 elections and encourages Kosovo to make further efforts to address the challenges on its European path; underlines the fact that the pace of the accession process will depend on progress on the rule of law and fundamental rights and the normalisation of relations with Serbia based on mutual recognition;

8.  Welcomes Kosovo’s ongoing alignment with the EU’s foreign and security policy, in particular its strong condemnation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and its implementation of the EU’s restrictive measures against Russia and Belarus, confirming its strong and continued commitment towards EU integration and firmly anchoring the country to the transatlantic alliance as a reliable and valuable partner;

9.  Commends Kosovo for suspending its visa regime for Ukrainian citizens and its readiness to host Ukrainian and Afghan refugees fleeing the war and to implement a specific program for the journalists of these countries;

10.  Reiterates its full support for Kosovo’s application for membership of the Council of Europe, the country’s plan to join the NATO Partnership for Peace programme and its requests to join other international organisations such as INTERPOL; calls on the organisations and Member States not to put any obstacles and to proactively support Kosovo’s respective requests; reiterates that the path of Euro-Atlantic integration is the path of stability that will guarantee Kosovo’s progress and security in the future;

11.  Regrets that Kosovo is at present the only European democracy not yet a member of the Council of Europe; calls on the international community to put pressure on Serbia to refrain from attempts to isolate its neighbouring country Kosovo from the international scene by campaigning against its recognition or by excluding the country from international organisations; calls on Serbia to lift its blocking vote that prohibits Kosovo from being a member of the Council of Europe and other international organisations, which would otherwise contradict the 2013 Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on the normalisation of relations; notes that Kosovo Serbs would benefit from Kosovo’s membership in the Council of Europe, as it would allow Kosovo Serbs to bring human rights complaints before the European Court of Human Rights;

12.  Warmly welcomes the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers’ decision to accept Kosovo’s application for membership and forward it to the Parliamentary Assembly; deeply regrets Serbia’s vote against this decision in violation of the Ohrid Agreement of 18 March 2023;

Democracy and the rule of law

13.  Commends Kosovo’s progress in strengthening democracy and the rule of law and its increased legislative activities on EU-related reforms; notes that Kosovo has implemented a significant number of reforms, while reiterating that implementation is key to the success of these reform and for sustainable progress; calls on the government to make use of a stable majority in the parliament and to continue work on the implementation of the necessary reforms;

14.  Welcomes the progress in implementing the priorities of the European Reform Agenda II; commends the efforts in strengthening the institutional capacities for implementation, monitoring and reporting of EU-related reforms; calls on the Commission and the EU Office in Kosovo to step up their efforts in enhancing visibility and promoting the role, efforts and benefits of the closer partnership between the EU and Kosovo;

15.  Welcomes Kosovo’s increased ranking for the second time in a row in the 2022 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index; notes that following significant improvements, Kosovo is among the most democratic countries in the Western Balkan region

16.  Notes that Kosovo is in the final stages of completing the new National Development Strategy (NDS) 2030; and welcomes the fact that the NDS is being developed through a very inclusive process involving a broad range of stakeholders from civil society, the business community and development partners; notes progress in the area of home affairs following the adoption of the Migration Strategy and of the Concept Document on Foreigners;

17.  Welcomes the adoption of significant anti-corruption legislation, including the Law on Agency for Prevention of Corruption, the Law on Declaration of Assets and Official Gifts, the new Code on Criminal Procedure, the Law on the Disciplinary Liability of Judges and Prosecutors and the Law on the Financing of Political Entities and calls for the rigorous implementation of these laws; underlines that continued efforts are needed for more proactive investigations, final court decisions and final confiscation of assets and that a strong political will is necessary to effectively address high-level corruption;

18.  Commends the fact that according to the Global Corruption Perception Index Report 2022 Kosovo has continued to improve its position and is among the frontrunners in the region; points out that the fight against corruption benefits all citizens;

19.  Reiterates its concern about Kosovo’s judiciary, which continues to be inefficient and vulnerable to undue interference; encourages the Kosovar authorities to improve the implementation of existing instruments to safeguard the independence, efficiency and integrity of the justice system as well as to improve its standards; notes the government’s commitment to follow the Venice Commission’s opinion on the concept paper on the vetting of judges and prosecutors, in close cooperation with the EU;

20.  Welcomes the launch and the ongoing implementation of Kosovo’s Strategy on Rule of Law 2021-2026 and its action plan aiming at strengthening the independence, impartiality, integrity, accountability as well as the overall capacity of its judiciary and prosecutors, with a specific focus on fighting corruption and organised crime;

21.  Expresses its concern that the mandate of the state chief prosecutor ended in April last year and regrets that the new one has not been appointed, even though the Prosecutorial Council has proposed a new candidate; urges the President of Kosovo to decide on the proposed candidate, as this vacancy is one of the factors undermining results in the fight against corruption and organised crime; notes the steps taken to reform the legislative framework governing the prosecutorial system by amending the Law on the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council;

22.  Urges the government to intensify its efforts to create a professional, depoliticised, diverse and citizen-oriented civil service, appointed through a transparent and merit-based process; regrets the boycott of judicial institutions encouraged by Serbian nationalist political parties in the north of Kosovo;

23.  Regrets that the newly adopted Law on Public Officials and the Law on Salaries did not take into account the comments of the international experts, thus potentially making the civil service vulnerable to politicisation; notes the adoption of the new, integrated public administration reform strategy and the public financial management strategy; and reminds the government that a sufficiently staffed, functional public administration cooperating in a trustful manner with the political level is key for a successful implementation of reforms;

24.  Welcomes the approval of the Law on and establishment of the Commercial Court, which will contribute to a conducive business environment and attract investments; reiterates Kosovo’s potential to develop a thriving tech industry, given its young population and high degree of innovation;

25.  Notes the need to ensure constructive parliamentary cooperation between the majority and the opposition; regrets the fact that legislative work has been negatively affected by a polarised political atmosphere and difficulties in achieving a decision-making quorum; calls on the relevant stakeholders to improve the management of the legislative agenda and urges the members of the opposition to cease the practice of not taking part in sessions and in votes, which prevents legislation from being adopted; encourages extra efforts from the ruling majority and from the opposition to strengthen the role of the Assembly as a forum for constructive political dialogue and consensus-building, particularly regarding the EU reform agenda;

26.  Calls on Kosovo to address the remaining shortcomings of the election process and to implement the related recommendations of the EU Election Observation Missions; welcomes the creation of a multi-party ad hoc committee to work on these reforms and calls for enhanced efforts to deliver on all long-outstanding recommendations;

27.  Welcomes the increased number of successful operations involving international and cross-border cooperation targeting organised crime, but notes with regret that limited progress has been made in investigating and prosecuting such cases; is concerned about the challenging situation regarding the fight against organised crime in the north of Kosovo, where the criminal gangs of Milan Radoičić and Zvonko Veselinović, with close ties to the Serbia’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party, continue to operate, thus negatively affecting the lives and future prospects of Kosovar citizens in the northern municipalities;

28.  Is deeply concerned about the shortcomings of the investigation into and the prosecution of the assassination of the Kosovo Serb opposition leaders, Oliver Ivanović and Dimitrije Janićijević, in Mitrovica; urges the Kosovar authorities to step up their efforts in these cases and uncover the political background of these assassinations;

29.  Is concerned with the continuing lack of implementation of the 2016 judgment of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo concerning the Visoki Dečani Monastery; reiterates its call on the government to promptly implement the ruling, in line with its commitment to the rule of law and respect of an independent judiciary; regrets in that regard the continuing attempts to construct an international road through the special protective zone of the Visoki Dečani Monastery, which raises serious issues for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage and the environment, and calls on the local and national authorities to put a definitive end to the road construction plan;

30.  Is worried about the growing foreign malicious interference in the form of disinformation and misinformation campaigns organised by several actors, most notably Russia and China; welcomes the work on the draft law on cyber security, including plans to establish the State Authority for Cyber Security; calls for Kosovo and the EU to increase their cooperation in order to strengthen democratic resilience and comprehensively counter disinformation campaigns and hybrid threats that aim to destabilise the country and undermine its European perspective, including in the areas of cyber security, protecting critical infrastructure and food and energy security;

31.  Calls for the EU and the Western Balkan countries to establish a framework for effective cooperation between the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and the accession countries; encourages the Western Balkan countries to swiftly conclude bilateral working arrangements with the EPPO in order to facilitate close cooperation and the prosecution of the misuse of EU funds, including through the secondment of national liaison officers to the EPPO;

32.  Welcomes the Western Balkan countries’ commitment to combating illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) trafficking, while at the same time expressing its concern about the amount of SALW in the possession of Kosovar citizens; calls on the Kosovar authorities to fulfil their commitment to implement the regional roadmap for a sustainable solution to the illegal possession, misuse and trafficking of SALW;

Fundamental freedoms and human rights

33.  Notes that Kosovo has the necessary institutional set-up for the promotion and protection of human rights; underlines, however, Kosovo must make a stronger commitment to prioritising human rights and ensuring accountability and adequate sanctions for violations and abuses by improving the implementation of relevant legislation;

34.  Welcomes Kosovo’s lively and pluralistic media environment, but deplores the derogatory statements and smear campaigns, often by political groups, aimed at investigative journalists; is particularly concerned about the lack of freedom of expression in the north of Kosovo, including self-censorship; strongly condemns the recent attacks on journalists in Kosovo’s northern municipalities and calls on the police and international security forces in Kosovo to provide journalists with better protection in order to safeguard the right to information in the north of the country;

35.  Reiterates its call for the introduction of effective measures to guarantee the financial sustainability and independence of media outlets, in order to eliminate political influence and empower them in serving the public interest and carrying out their important democratic roles and responsibilities; calls for greater transparency and reliable information on media ownership with a view to enhancing media independence and pluralism;

36.  Calls on the government to enhance its cooperation with civil society on decision-making and to make more use of the Government Council for Cooperation with Civil Society for building cooperative relationships and genuinely involving civil society in a transparent legislative process from an early stage; stresses the importance of increasing accountability and transparency in relation to public funding for civil society organisations; underlines that civil society is vital in fostering democracy and pluralism and promoting good governance and social progress;

37.  Strongly denounces the increasing number of cases of strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPPs) in the Western Balkan countries, including some initiated by EU companies, as they are a serious threat to democracy and fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and information, as journalists and activists can be prevented from or penalised for speaking up on issues of public interest, which in turn has a chilling effect on all actual or potential critical voices; calls on Kosovo to take appropriate measures such as allowing the early dismissal of such suits, awareness raising exercises among judges and prosecutors, introducing measures to punish abuse, particularly by reversing the costs of proceedings, as well as giving practical support to those who are sued, and calls on Kosovo’s international partners to support Kosovo in this endeavour;

38.  Is deeply concerned about the longstanding impunity for the murders and disappearances in Kosovo of seven Serb and six Kosovo Albanian journalists from 1998 to 2005, namely Afrim Maliqi, Aleksandar Simović, Bardhyl Ajeti, Bekim Kastrati, Đuro Slavuj, Enver Maloku, Shefki Popova, Xhemajl Mustafa, Ljubomir Knežević, Marjan Melonaši, Milo Buljević, Momir Stokuća, and Ranko Perenić; calls on the Kosovo authorities to work towards their prompt resolution as all cases of attacks against journalists and past cases of murder and disappearance need to be effectively investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice;

39.  Deplores the many cases of femicide and gender-based and sexual violence, including against minors; calls on the police, courts and government to step up their efforts to combat domestic and gender-based violence and improve the protective and preventive measures in place, including through an increase of the number of gender-sensitive law enforcement agents and judges, sustainable public support for women’s shelters and legal aid to victims; urges the effective implementation of the national strategy against domestic and gender-based violence and calls on the government to adopt the law on prevention of and protection against domestic violence, violence against women and gender-based violence without delay;

40.  Welcomes the government’s approval of a draft law amending and supplementing the Criminal Code, which introduces tougher penalties for domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape, including criminalisation of virginity testing, which is considered a violation of human rights; encourages the Kosovo Assembly to swiftly adopt it and calls for its speedy implementation;

41.  Calls on the Government of Kosovo and the recently established Council for Democracy and Human Rights to increase their efforts towards combating gender-based discrimination and to improve human and administrative capacities in order to enhance the implementation of the Law on Gender Equality; underlines the importance of education in the fight against gender-based discrimination; stresses the need for relevant stakeholders to take tangible actions aimed at achieving gender mainstreaming in all policies and measures, as well as at promoting and advancing gender equality and the implementation of the requirements of the Istanbul Convention;

42.  Condemns cases of discrimination and hate speech against ethnic minorities, LGBTIQ+ people, refugees and displaced persons; regrets the lack of implementation of legal protections for LGBTIQ+ people and reiterates its call for the intensification of efforts to provide minority groups with equal opportunities;

43.  Acknowledges that Kosovo’s constitution is one of the most progressive in terms of minority rights; notes, in that respect, that the petition signed by nearly 500 people who have historically self-identified as Bulgarian, which was registered at the Assembly of Kosovo in January 2023, has still not been considered and recommends that those rights be enshrined in law and ensured in practice; calls on Kosovo to intensify its efforts to provide minority groups with equal opportunities and adequate representation in political and cultural life, public media, the administration and the judiciary;

44.  Calls on the Government of Kosovo to be more committed to the protection and promotion of cultural heritage and to adopt the law on cultural heritage and the law on religious freedom; encourages the authorities to re-establish relations with the Serbian Orthodox Church in order to find sustainable solutions for the protection and preservation of heritage sites;

45.  Regrets that many obstacles to the return of persons forcibly displaced during the conflict persist; emphasises that political will and sustainable funding are crucial to creating adequate conditions for sustainable return, including improved security and full access to social and economic rights for returnees; condemns the frequent attacks on Kosovo Serb returnees; calls on the Government of Kosovo to ensure that displaced persons are granted their property rights, access to documents and citizenship, as well as the use of the Serbian language in public administration;

46.  Welcomes the adoption of the strategy for the advancement of the rights of the Roma and Ashkali communities 2022-2026 and its action plan 2022-2024; reiterates its call for the greater inclusion of minority communities, including Roma, Ashkalia, Egyptians, Bosniaks, Turks and Gorani, and to ensure they have equal opportunities in social and public life; underlines the importance of implementing the strategy, including by giving it an appropriate budget;

47.  Reiterates its call on the competent authorities to continue working on the civil code that is in line with the Constitution, the EU acquis, European standards and international practices, and to ensure it is adopted without further delay; stresses the importance of ensuring rights for all people in Kosovo and including same-sex marriage in the civil code to safeguard respect for constitutional rights and opportunities for the LGBTIQ+ community;

48.  Calls for the government to support the 2023 Pristina Pride; urges the government to ensure that LGBTIQ+ persons are treated the same as other citizens and are able fully to enjoy their rights;

49.  Deplores the fact that persons with disabilities remain among the most discriminated in Kosovo; underlines the importance of ensuring that persons with disabilities have equal access to education, health services, public buildings and transport; calls on Kosovo to close the gap on harmonising its legislation and policies with the relevant UN conventions and the EU acquis on the rights of persons with disabilities;

50.  Welcomes the start of the process towards amending the Constitution for the inclusion of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the developments on draft law on the assessment, recognition of status, benefits and services for persons with disabilities; commends the increase in the employment of people with disabilities that the government has achieved through its recovery packages;

51.  Is concerned that children with disabilities lack proper access to education facilities as well as necessary assistance; reiterates its calls on Kosovo to better integrate children with disabilities into educational facilities and to increase its support for improving social and health services for these children;

Reconciliation and good neighbourly relations

52.  Notes Kosovo’s engagement in a number of regional cooperation initiatives, such as the Energy Community, Transport Community, the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) and the Regional Cooperation Council;

53.  Encourages Kosovo to step up its reconciliation efforts and seek solutions to past disputes, including by adopting a comprehensive national strategy for dealing with the past, while stressing the pivotal role played by civil society organisations in Kosovo in this field and their contribution to the preparation of the transitional justice strategy; calls for the stepping up of efforts and the delivery of solutions on the issues of missing persons and for these topics also to be addressed as part of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue; expresses its deep sympathy to the families of the missing persons and urges the government to pay particular attention to keeping them informed and to communicate in a sensitive way;

54.  Commends the fact that the first draft of the law that regulates the work of the new Institute of Crimes Committed during the War in Kosovo includes crimes committed in the period up to 31 December 2000 and related to the war; calls on the parliament to adopt the law with this proposed timeline and to make documentation of these crimes mandatory; encourages the government to overcome inconsistency between laws related to the war and to ensure the applicability of this timeline in all cases; is deeply concerned regarding the present shortcomings in the investigation, prosecution and trial of war crimes in Kosovo; urges Kosovo to increase resources for the special unit within the Special Prosecutorial Office and increase the number of prosecutors dealing with war crimes, as a necessary step to ensure that perpetrators of crimes committed during the war in Kosovo are brought to justice and that victims and their families receive the closure and justice they deserve;

55.  Regrets the fact that the initiatives to involve the Serb community in Kosovo’s political, social and economic structures remain very limited; welcomes, however, the government’s increased dialogue with Kosovo Serbian citizens over the last year; reiterates its call to improve the internal dialogue and genuinely and directly engage with the independent civil society organisations of Kosovo Serbs, in particular in the north, with the aim of building trust, facilitating the daily life of Kosovo Serbs and successfully integrating them; urges the Kosovar authorities to ensure good quality translations of official documents and laws into the Serbian language;

56.  Calls on the Government of Kosovo and the representatives of Kosovo Serbs to further commit to genuine dialogue in order to increase mutual trust, overcome intercommunal divisions and promote people to people contacts between communities; calls on Serbia and Kosovo to respect their Dialogue obligations and on Kosovo Serb representatives to return to the Kosovar institutions and not to further escalate the tensions on the ground; reaffirms that reconciliation and the inclusion of the Serb community in Kosovo is essential for ensuring stability in the country and for moving forward in the normalisation of Pristina-Belgrade relations;

57.  Calls on the Government of Kosovo to act with the utmost sensitivity and full respect for the rule of a law, including when it comes to the expropriation of land in the Serb-majority north for projects of public interest, providing for a period for public consultation and an opportunity for citizens to oppose any expropriation decision before it becomes final;

58.  Reiterates its full support for the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák; calls on Kosovo and Serbia to engage in this dialogue in good faith and in the spirit of compromise to achieve a comprehensive, legally binding agreement on the normalisation of their relations, based on mutual recognition, in accordance with international law and without further delay; calls for the full implementation, in good faith and in a timely manner, of all the relevant agreements by both sides, including the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-Majority Municipalities; believes that a final and comprehensive settlement will enhance cooperation, stability and prosperity in the wider region;

59.  Calls on both sides to demonstrate leadership and be ready to take necessary decisions which lead to progress in the dialogue and reconciliation between their societies; underlines that the current geopolitical environment makes it even more imperative to overcome the legacies of the past and engage in meaningful negotiations;

60.  Reaffirms that normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, based on mutual recognition, is essential for ensuring the European future of both countries; calls on both parties to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and to increase efforts aiming to find mutually acceptable and negotiated solutions in line with EU principles and values;

61.  Takes note of the positive signals on de-escalating tensions by both sides; welcomes the positive steps towards accepting the EU’s proposal, which is a good basis for furthering the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo; calls on Serbia to sign the agreement, which has already been verbally agreed, and on both parties to implement it; urges both to embrace this proposal and put all their efforts behind it with a view to finally achieving a sustainable long-term solution; reiterates its call to improve the quality of the Dialogue process through the engagement of all sectors of society and the participation of women, as well as through increased transparency towards the public and the meaningful involvement of civil society;

62.  Emphasises the urgent need for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue process to be intensified and calls on the EU to offer more effective mediation between the parties aimed at overcoming the current stalemate; calls for the EU and US actors to support Kosovo’s authorities in working towards the implementation of the Association/Community of Serb-Majority Municipalities, which must be in line with the Constitution of Kosovo;

63.  Welcomes the firm commitment of the Kosovar Government to constructively contribute to creating the conditions necessary for productive dialogue that will lead to a comprehensive agreement on the normalisation of relations with Serbia; denounces the escalatory actions by Serbian-sponsored actors, including illegitimate blockades, violent attacks and the threat of military action; regrets that Serbia has resumed the Kosovo de-recognition campaign;

64.  Notes that the local elections in Kosovo’s northern municipalities on 23 April 2023 were in line with Kosovo’s legal framework; deeply regrets that the main political party in the north of Kosovo, the Serb List, declined to take part in the elections; deplores this boycott orchestrated by Belgrade, the intimidation of Serb opposition politicians, and the deplorable rhetoric emanating from the highest offices against Kosovo’s officials;

65.  Commends the work of the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and its role in building and maintaining independent rule of law institutions and a stable and peaceful Kosovo; recalls the importance of the mission for the ongoing development of the Kosovo Security Force through the provision of advice, training and capacity building in order to increase its effectiveness, sustainability, multi-ethnicity and accountability, free from political interference and in full compliance with international human rights standards and European best practices; strongly urges the relevant authorities to consider making EULEX the first security responder in the north of Kosovo, including for policing, for as long as the Kosovo police forces are lacking personnel on the ground in the north; welcomes recent deployments of additional units to strengthen the EULEX Formed Police Unit (FPU), and calls for the EU and its Member States to increase EULEX’s units on the ground yet further, in particular in the north; commends EULEX’s regularly published monitoring and assessment reports, ensuring transparency about its work and fostering an informed public debate about concrete legal remedies to improve accountability and deliver justice more efficiently;

66.  Condemns all actions that endanger stability and jeopardise the reconciliation process, including the recent tensions in the north of Kosovo ; is deeply concerned about the unacceptable shooting of the Stojanović brothers on Orthodox Christmas Eve in Štrpce; condemns the attacks on the Municipal Electoral Commission offices and the EULEX car patrol in the north of Kosovo and the arbitrary detention of Kosovo Serb politician Rada Trajković at the Merdare crossing point in December 2022; calls for speedy, transparent and thorough investigations into all these incidents and for all perpetrators to be held accountable; welcomes the decision of Kosovo’s president to postpone the extraordinary elections for mayors and municipal assemblies of the four northern municipalities amid the current tensions; recalls the shared responsibility for peace and the rule of law of all people in Kosovo;

67.  Is deeply concerned that a potential escalation of violence is still looming and that this threat is exacerbated by the institutional and security vacuum; condemns, in that context, the burning of Kosovo Serbs’ cars in the northern municipalities, the deployment of special forces and the erection of barricades; calls on all sides, including the governments of Kosovo and Serbia as well as local communities, to work towards a sustainable solution, strongly rejecting any attempts to undermine Kosovo’s territorial sovereignty, integrity and security; reiterates the need for the urgent return of Kosovo Serbs to the institutions, while encouraging the government to significantly step up its efforts for their re-integration; expresses its concern about Serbia’s consistent propaganda that Serbs in Kosovo are under threat;

68.  Condemns the Russian attempts to exert influence over the Western Balkans by means of exploiting cultural, ethnic and religious divisions and destabilising pro-democratic forces; expresses its concern about hybrid threats, including the presence of the Russian Wagner Group in Serbia; urges the Kosovar authorities to investigate the alleged presence of Russian Wagner Group mercenaries in the north of Kosovo; expresses serious concerns in that respect about the Russian Wagner Groupgraffiti that has appeared in public spaces in the northern regions Kosovska Mitrovica and Zvecan;

69.  Calls for the opening and publication of all wartime archives; reiterates its call for the former Yugoslav archives to be opened and, in particular, for access to be granted to the files of the former Yugoslav secret service (UDBA) and the Yugoslav People’s Army Counterintelligence Service (KOS), and for the files to be returned to the respective governments if they so request;

70.  Welcomes the recent agreements in the framework of the Berlin Process on the Freedom of Movement with Identity Cards, on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications, and on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications for Doctors of Medicine, Dentists and Architects; calls for their rapid implementation;

71.  Stresses the need to reinforce and find synergies of action between the EU initiatives for the region, such as the EU Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR), and the other bi- or multilateral initiatives, such as the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative (AII), the Central European Initiative (CEI) and the Berlin Process;

72.  Reiterates its support for the initiative to establish the regional commission for the establishment of facts about war crimes and other serious violations of human rights committed in the former Yugoslavia (RECOM); highlights the importance of the work carried out by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and welcomes Kosovo’s active participation; reiterates the need to reach out especially to young people from the northern municipalities and to integrate them in the socio-economic structures of the country;

Socio-economic reforms

73.  Commends cultural and youth initiatives such as the annual cross-border art festival Mirëdita, Dobar Dan, which promotes cooperation between artists and activists of Kosovo and Serbia; encourages Kosovar and Serbian authorities, including at the local level, to further build upon such positive initiatives and use cultural heritage as a means of bringing different communities together; commends, in this regard, the cooperation between the municipality and mayor of Peja/Peć and the Goraždevac community as an inspiring example of peaceful relations between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians;

74.  Welcomes the continued work of civil society organisations that bring young people, activists, young political leaders, journalists and others together and which pave the way for long-term reconciliation and better mutual understanding between the two societies; encourages the governments of both Kosovo and Serbia to invest more in language courses and the translation of cultural content, which would bring the Serbian and Albanian communities closer together;

75.  Reiterates the need to carry out structural reforms in order to boost competitiveness and ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth; welcomes the progress made in tackling the informal economy; remains concerned, however, that the widespread informal economy, the high prevalence of corruption and the overall weak rule of law continue to hinder the private sector; calls for the implementation of the newly adopted anti-corruption legislation and calls on Kosovo to more closely align with the EU single market acquis;

76.  Welcomes the fact that the Kosovar economy grew again in 2022 and commends the progress made in areas critical to economic development, such as competitiveness, the business environment, support for SMEs and the internal market as well as its reforms to the Law on Inspections, amended Law on Protection of Competition, and the Consumer Protection Programme 2021-2025; welcomes the policy support to cushion the impact of the pandemic and of high energy prices for the most affected households and firms;

77.  Expresses concern over the low labour market participation of young people, women and ethnic minorities; encourages Kosovo to prioritise reducing the skills mismatch, improve the availability and affordability of early childhood education and care and address the shortcomings in maternity and parental leave policy;

78.  Welcomes the recent government initiative to provide scholarships specifically for women wishing to study in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) sector; stresses the importance of young people’s participation in the labour market for economic development and the overall social cohesion; highlights Kosovo’s potential in the area of digitalisation and ICT skills, in particular among its young population;

79.  Regrets the lack of progress in improving the quality of education; calls on the relevant stakeholders to include persons belonging to minority groups in the design and implementation of employment measures; calls on Kosovo to provide equal and non-discriminatory state education in minority languages; reiterates the need to reach out to young people from the Serb majority municipalities and to integrate them in the socio-economic structures of the country;

80.  Reiterates its calls on the Commission to develop a regional strategy to address the persistent youth unemployment and emigration by tackling the skills mismatch between the education system and the labour market, improving the quality of teaching, and ensuring adequate funding for active labour market measures and vocational training schemes, along with adequate childcare and pre-school education facilities;

81.  Welcomes the launch of the education strategy for 2022-2026, which, for the first time, has the use of digital technology to improve services and quality in education as one of its five strategic objectives and calls for its effective implementation;

82.  Calls for a comprehensive review of all textbooks used in the education system to identify and eliminate any misinformation, derogatory and discriminatory language for ethnic minorities, sexual minorities and women as a crucial contribution towards creating a more inclusive and democratic society; encourages the authorities to pursue the initiative started in late 2021 aimed at updating them;

83.  Emphasises the need to invest in digitalisation as a way of minimising the digital divide and ensuring equal access to the internet, including for the most vulnerable groups; notes the great potential of Kosovo’s young population and the potential of digitalisation for the development of Kosovo’s economy;

84.  Welcomes the progress made in digitalising the economy and increasing access to the internet, including by increasing the number of quality services provided by online government platform E-Kosova; stresses the importance of maintaining a high-level of cyber security through adequate financing and regulation;

85.  Notes the fiscally prudent position regarding the pensions of war veterans and the Pension Savings Trust;

86.  Regrets that the 2022-2023 school year started with a one-month delay due to a teachers’ strike; calls on the government to improve the conditions for social dialogue and collective bargaining, and emphasises the importance of constructive and inclusive social dialogue in strengthening economic resilience and promoting social justice;

87.  Underlines the importance of providing high-quality health services for the improvement of human health and long-term societal and economic development; notes the establishment of the Executive Committee for Health, which aims to improve the quality of health services in the country; expresses concern over the high turnover of health ministers and its impact on the effectiveness of the ministry and reforms in the health sector; urges the government to ensure better access to healthcare services and to speed up its work on the introduction of a universal health coverage scheme;

88.  Welcomes the Tirana Summit agreement on reducing roaming costs between the EU and the Western Balkans from 1 October 2023, with a view to their full removal thereafter; calls on the authorities, private actors and all stakeholders to work towards reaching the agreed targets in order to achieve a substantial reduction in roaming charges for data exchange;

89.  Regrets the limited progress made on consumer policy; calls on Kosovo to pursue further alignment with the EU acquis on consumer protection and to step up its efforts in raising awareness of consumer rights in order to empower consumers and increase their trust in public authorities, enhance competition and speed up the economic recovery;

90.  Urges the Government of Kosovo to further develop a favourable business environment and to attract foreign direct investment, in particular outside the capital; welcomes the exceptional export performance; notes, however, a rise in imports which contributed to a nearly unchanged trade deficit; regrets the unilateral introduction of export restrictions on some agricultural products without justification, in contravention of the procedures set out in the Stabilisation and Association Agreement; calls on the government to lift the remaining unjustified restrictive measures; encourages Kosovo to effect transition in the agricultural sector in order to increase local food production and reduce imports of basic food items; calls on the government to ensure more transparent and comprehensive agriculture financing, as well as to support exporters of agricultural products by establishing a presence in foreign markets;

91.  Takes note of the first annual IPA III programme, which is worth EUR 63,96 million and will support measures targeting the rule of law and human rights, good governance, socio-economic development, energy and the environment;

Energy, environment, sustainable development and connectivity

92.  Stresses the importance of taking action to address the climate and environment emergency by reducing fossil fuel dependency and phasing out coal in line with the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, with a view to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impact of climate change; urges the government to implement the climate change strategy and the associated action plan and to prepare a roadmap for alignment with the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, noting that progress in these areas, and alignment with EU standards, has remained low;

93.  Takes note of the finalisation of the Climate Change Law and expects its approval in 2023; calls for the drafting of an ambitious, credible and cohesive national energy and climate plan and the revision of the climate change strategy to a strategy on climate change adaptation;

94.  Welcomes the Commission’s energy support package of EUR 1 billion in EU grants to help the Western Balkans overcome the energy crisis, including immediate budgetary support of EUR 75 million to Kosovo; underlines that it is of the utmost importance that the emergency funds be allocated to relieving the effects of the energy crisis and supporting Kosovo in becoming an energy-efficient and renewable energy-based economy; acknowledges the Kosovar authorities’ efforts in tackling the energy crisis and their timely development of an action plan to use the EU energy support package; calls on the Kosovar authorities to make the best use of this assistance in order to build a resilient and environmentally friendly energy system in line with the REpowerEU plan; underlines the importance of ensuring a reliable and clean energy supply, diversifying energy sources, and investing in renewables and the improvement of energy efficiency; notes the importance of Solar4Kosovo flagship investments;

95.  Welcomes the EU’s financial assistance to Kosovo, including infrastructure-related loans and grants available through the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which include funding for the Priština - Merdare section of the ‘Peace Highway’ and preparations for new investments in water supply and wastewater treatment;

96.  Welcomes the objectives of the energy strategy of the Republic of Kosovo 2022-2031, which was approved by the government in December 2022; regrets the fact that Kosovo has failed to adopt the long-announced energy strategy for 2022-2030, and calls for its immediate adoption and implementation, as well as that of the law on renewable energy sources; highlights that the draft energy strategy includes limited efforts towards a coal phase-out and notes as a shortcoming that it only focuses on the energy sector; regrets the lack of progress in ensuing the adoption of the roadmap for the implementation of the 2013 and 2015 energy agreements regarding the supply of electricity in four Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo and urges the government to work towards its swift implementation, putting an end to unfair practices and providing a legal and transparent framework for the supply of electricity in the region;

97.  Reiterates its concern that the overwhelming majority of Kosovo’s energy is produced from coal and calls for the removal of all non-compliant coal subsidies, the decentralisation of energy production and a move towards renewables; takes note of the Electricity Markets Cooperation Framework Agreement and a memorandum of understanding with Albania that contribute to establishing a sustainable market in the two countries;

98.  Calls on Kosovo to respect the Energy Community Law and to align its legislation with the EU directives on large combustion plants(13) and industrial emissions(14); reiterates its call for Kosovo to open its retail electricity market in line with the Third Energy Package;

99.  Urges the government to minimise the impact of energy production on biodiversity by stopping hydropower development in protected areas, in particular in the two national parks; underlines the need to improve environmental impact assessments and to boost the prosecution of environmental crimes; recommends that Kosovo take water scarcity into account and assess the impact of hydropower on the country’s energy sustainability policies in this context;

100.  Calls for urgent action to tackle air pollution and soil and water contamination and management; urges Kosovo to comply with emission ceilings established under its national emission reduction plan and increase environmental mainstreaming in different sectoral policies; welcomes efforts made by Kosovo in this regard, most notably with the adoption and implementation of Law No. 08/L-025 on protection of air from pollution;

101.  Regrets the inadequate and dilatory response to Kosovo’s growing waste management issues and calls for immediate action in this regard, in particular to improve waste management legislation and its implementation in line with the circular economy, including through the establishment of the extended producer responsibility system;

o   o

102.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the President of the European Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the President, Government and National Assembly of Kosovo.

(1) OJ L 71, 16.3.2016, p. 3.
(2) OJ L 195, 27.7.2017, p. 3.
(3) OJ L 198, 20.07.2006, p. 18
(4) OJ L 198, 20.07.2006, p. 15.
(5) OJ L 197, 4.6.2021, p. 114.
(6) OJ L 330, 20.9.2021, p. 1.
(7) OJ C 108, 26.3.2021, p. 877.
(9) OJ C 362, 8.9.2021, p. 129.
(10) OJ C 47, 7.2.2023, p. 118.
(11) OJ C 251, 30.6.2022, p. 87.
(12) Texts adopted, P9_TA(2022)0406.
(13) Directive 2001/80/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2001 on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants (OJ L 309, 27.11.2001, p. 1).
(14) Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) (OJ L 334, 17.12.2010, p. 17).

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