EUROPEAN COMMISSION KOSOVO REPORT 2018 CONFIRMS THE ISSUES RAISED BY KCSF ON ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR CIVIL SOCIETY DEVELOPMENT
Brussels, Prishtina – 19th of April 2018
On 17th of April 2018, the European Commission published the Kosovo Report 2018. The section on Political Criteria, among others also includes an assessment of the main issues on civil society and the enabling environment for the operation of this sector. KCSF notes that this year’s EC Report has taken into account the vast majority of issues raised by KCSF in its written inputs to the European Commission. KCSF inputs are based on its extensive expertise and regular research and advocacy on civil society development.
The EC Report states that progress has been achieved by entering into force of the Regulation on Minimum Standards as of 1st of January 2017, and by launching the Online Platform for public consultations in February 2017, as well as efforts made for the implementation of these standards. However, it emphasises the same concern as KCSF that several ministries are not ready to fulfil the obligations under the new regulations, illustrated by a low percentage of primary policy documents and draft laws published for consultation. Moreover, the EC Report expresses/states the concern of a low response rate from civil society and the public.
With regards to the involvement of civil society in the EU agenda, the EC Report 2018 fails to address KCSF following concerns: a) National Strategy for EU integration 2014-2020 is forgotten, lacks ownership and nothing is enacted to implement it; b) National Council for European Integration as a forum where civil society can raise issues at highest level is not functioning, and c) Communication and Information Strategy in support of Kosovo’s European Integration Process 2017 -2020 where civil society can contribute in implementation, is not yet approved."
The EC Report also acknowledges the achievement by adoption and entry into force of the Regulation for criteria and procedures for public funding for NGOs, as a way of improving governance and increasing transparency in the use of public funds. However, it assesses that several ministries and municipalities lack technical capacities to effectively execute assigned budgets in accordance with the new regulation and procedures. Building on previous requests to publish data on public funding for NGO, the EC Country Report for Kosovo indicates that the publishing of the first ever report on public funding for NGOs, in March 2017, is a positive step towards greater transparency. Nevertheless, as stated in KCSF’s detailed analysis of the public funding report and all the issues identified with the type and accuracy of data presented by the Government, the EC Report confirms that the information provided in the government report does not yet allow for a meaningful analysis of budget execution when it comes to NGOs.
With no improvement for many years now, the EC Report continues to assess the legal framework for tax deductions as ambiguous.
Despite improvements of the Law on the prevention of money laundry and fight the financing of terrorism in 2016, it still contains restrictive provisions for NGOs, which are not in line with international standards, and EU Acquis. The EC Country Report reaffirms this by recognizing this law as restrictive for the NGO sector with extensive reporting requirements for NGOs. Furthermore, it mentions the initiation of the sectoral risk-assessment on NGOs to identify to what extent the NGO sector is at risk of financing terrorism. This has been a longstanding request by KCSF that has kicked-off in September 2017 by the Financial Intelligence Unit.
Last but not least in importance, the EC Report notes that the new draft law on freedom of association in NGOs is still in process and explicitly asks for clarification of the rules for setting up, registering, operating, suspending, terminating and de-registering NGOs.