Critics question need for new Kosovo integration council

30/03/2012

Kosovo's National Council for European Integration will co-ordinate and harmonise the country's EU integration policies, but some say it is redundant.

By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 30/03/12

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"This approach is essential for the acceleration of Kosovo's progress towards the EU," Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said. [Reuters]

The formation of Kosovo's National Council for European Integration is expected to help the country on its path to the EU by building an institutional and social consensus on integration. But many say it is unnecessary.

The opposition Self-determination party rejected the offer to participate in the council. "We don't have a lack of councils and positive recommendations in Kosovo to justify the need for an additional mechanism," the party said in a statement.

Kosovo has a ministry for EU integration, in addition to each ministry having a department for the purpose and a parliamentary committee for it as well.

Even though he welcomed the formation of the council -- which was inaugurated on Tuesday (March 27th), the same day the EU launched a feasibility study on the Stabilisation and Association agreement with the country -- Parliamentary Speaker Jakup Krasniqi noted the assembly's engagement in the process of EU integration, underlining its co-operation with Union institutions and the European Parliament.

"Our latest meeting occurred ten days ago in Strasbourg, which further enforced the outstanding relations between the European Parliament and the Kosovo Assembly," Krasniqi said.

However, Vlora Çitaku, minister for European integration, told SETimes that the country's EU integration is not just on the government agenda, it has a national dimension.

The new council has advisory and co-ordinating authority and represents "the unity of the entire political and social spectrum in Kosovo, including the opposition, civil society and experts," she said.

Leonora Kryeziu, political studies director at Pristina Institute, said the purpose of the council is to set up a strategy framework for Kosovo's approach to EU integration. But such a strategy should have been created by the ministry for European integration, Kryeziu told SETimes. "As a consequence of lack of governing capabilities, our leadership is setting up different mechanisms to cover their poor performance."

"Five EU countries still do not recognise Kosovo's independence, blocking us from having contractual arrangement with the Union -- thus making the council unnecessary," she added.

The council is important only if it is effective, said Muamer Pajazitim, of the University College Institute for Political and European Studies. "We recently saw the formation of the National Council against Corruption by the president, but [the result of that is] just a mechanism on paper," Pajazitim told SETimes.

Several other countries have multiple mechanisms for EU integration. Macedonia has a dozen institutions sharing the responsibilities. The Committee for Euro-Atlantic Integration plays the central role, while the Working Committee for European Integration is chaired by the deputy prime minister. Several other departments and sectors follow up, due to the country's lack of a ministry dedicated to the process of EU integration.

Bosnia and Herzegovina had a ministry for this purpose, but transformed it into the Directorate on European integration in 2002.

Montenegro is following Croatia's example by having a joint ministry on foreign affairs and European integration leading the process. There are also a number of mechanisms involved in the integration process.

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Veton Latifi, a professor of international relations at Southeast European University in Tetovo, says the problem is that these mechanisms are not introduced by countries themselves.

"Unfortunately, the formation of all these mechanisms in the Western Balkans is happening by suggestion -- requests or urging by Brussels usually," Latifi told SETimes.

In that vein, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule welcomed the council. "This approach is essential for the acceleration of Kosovo's progress towards the EU," he said on Wednesday.

"I think it is only speculation that the National Council will steal the European agenda from the parliament. This body is to facilitate a consensus," said Fule.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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