EU officials are urging Pristina to boost reform progress in order to establish a stabilisation and accession agreement with the Union.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 12/03/13
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (right) encouraged Kosovo Prime Minster Hashim Thaci to accelerate reforms. [AFP]
Pristina is expecting to get approval before the end of June to begin negotiations with the EU Commission on a stabilisation and accession agreement that would mark the first agreement between Kosovo and the EU and a milestone in the country's European integration efforts.
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said now is the time for Kosovo to accelerate the pace of reforms, which will lead to a decision on opening negotiations on the agreement.
"The European Commission is committed to issuing negotiating directives for an agreement with Kosovo this spring provided Kosovo makes further essential progress on the remaining priorities identified in last year's feasibility study," Barroso said.
Barroso, who met with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi in Brussels last month, said Kosovo has made progress on its public administration reform, the protection of minorities and rule of law, but officials still must address several trade issues required by the EU.
The trade reforms include restructuring the trade and industry ministry, preparing an impact analysis on the trade aspects under the accession agreement and implementing the legal framework for the country's trade competition on external and internal markets.
Thaçi said Kosovo will work with EULEX to continue the reforms in rule of law and fighting corruption, two issues the EU considers crucial to evaluating the progress of countries seeking membership.
"We are aware that we must do more to increase public trust in institutions," Thaçi said.
Asad Gashi, a researcher at the Pristina Institute for International and European Studies, told SETimes that the government has taken action to address the trade reforms that are still pending, but the larger challenges remain rule of law and public administration.
"One of the criteria is to demonstrate a clear commitment to delivering results in the fight against organised crime and corruption, and we still have not achieved progress in this regard," he said.
Fisnik Gashi, a lecturer on EU affairs at the University College ISPE in Pristina, told SETimes that relations with the EU are influenced by Kosovo's will to implement needed reform and the division inside the EU regarding Kosovo's political status.
EU members Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus do not recognise Kosovo.
"Progress [needs to be measured] by turning the political will into concrete steps by implementing all obligations Kosovo needs to deepen relations with the EU," Gashi said.
Gashi added that Kosovo should focus on improving the efficiency of its government through reforms in public administration, rule of law and an uncompromising fight against organised crime and corruption.