News 10 May 13

Kosovo Celebrates Europe Day From Afar

Kosovo marked Europe Day on May 9 with a public holiday, which is ironic, given that membership of the European Union remains only a distant prospect.

Edona Peci

While May 9 remains an ordinary working day in all other countries in the Western Balkans and in the EU, government institutions in non-EU member Kosovo downed tools.

Despite the fact it has not officially started integration procedures into the European Union and still lacks a Stabilization and Association Agreement - the first step on the road to the EU - the Kosovo authorities remain cautiously optimistic.

Kosovo “is not interested in taking a short road towards the EU”, President Atifete Jahjaga said, reiterating the need for reforms.

“We are interested in meeting all the criteria, because just by doing so we can create a stable state, a comprehensive society and a consolidated democracy,” she added.

In the meantime, many Kosovo citizens say it is absurd for the country to declare a public holiday on Europe Day bearing in mind its distance from EU membership.

“We should be showing today that we are eager to work towards EU integration, not sitting around in cafes,” Donika Bala said.

Admir Istrefi, who works for a non-governmental organization dealing with EU integration, agrees. “It is wrong to rest on a day like this,” he said.

The opposition nationalist Self-Determination Movement strikes a similar note.

“May 9 finds Serbia led by the Fascist coalition of 1999…while Kosovo remains a victim of this fascism in an isolated ghetto”, the movement said, referring to Serbia's centrist-nationalist government.

While Kosovo hasn’t even signed a SAA, Croatia is due to join the EU on July 1 and Montenegro has started membership talks.

Serbia and Macedonia both have obtained candidate status while Albania has obtained a conditional recommendation for candidate status.

Ragged relations with Serbia, high levels of organized crime and corruption and the interference of politics in the justice system continue to be the main obstacles on Kosovo’s EU integration path.

"The combination of lucrative cross-border illicit activities, economic underdevelopment and limited administrative capacity create considerable incentives for bribery, money-laundering and the abuse of public procurement procedures,” the European Commission said in a February report sent to the European Parliament and the EU Council.

On April 19, Kosovo and Serbia struck a historic deal, brokered by the EU, but the two sides have yet to agree on the action plan for the agreement.

Stefan Fule, the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, meanwhile described the results achieved in the Western Balkan parts as “encouraging”.

“Serbia and Kosovo have recently struck a historic deal, and Montenegro is moving forward in the accession process,” he said in a Europe Day message.

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