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«This document is supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Prishtinë, July 2016 Impressum: Copyright: Kosovo Local ...»

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This document is supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

Prishtinë, July 2016


Copyright: Kosovo Local Government Institute and Local Government Information Unit


This paper is a first draft for discussion. It is intended to begin a conversation and does not

represent the final views of the author or of the supporting organizations. The views expressed in this document are not necessarily those of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

Table of Contents:



1. Decentralization vs implementation on the ground

1.1. Decentralization as a product of the package

1.2. The first steps of decentralization

1.3. From the package into implementation

1.4. From the Ahtisaari package to the Association/ Community of Serb-Majority Municipalities 7 1.5. An overview of local autonomy

1.6. Decentralization fluctuates between success and failure

1.7. Decentralization, a challenging process for municipalities


2.1. Local Governance in the ground

2.2. Municipalities in the shadow of dominant mayors

2.3. The poor quality of services reduces the confidence towards local authorities

2.5. Economic development, a barrier to fiscal decentralization

2.6. Municipalities within the framework

2.7. Negotiations as the only tool for integration of the North

2.8. New municipalities, additional burden for decentralization in Kosovo!


3.1. The Decentralization Reforms and the Way Forward


4.1. Conclusions

4.2. Reccommendations

Introduction Decentralization has become a global phenomenon in most developing countries during the recent years. The aim of decentralization goes beyond the principles of self-government and political representation of local communities. This aim is to improve the delivery of services towards the citizens, ensure that these services are provided efficiently and effectively and improve the lives of citizens in a country. Unlike other countries, in Balkan, including Kosovo, the decentralization reforms are used as a means to resolve ethnic conflicts and reduce the excessive authority of the central level.

During the implementation of decentralization, it is obvious that on the one hand, the central government insists on preventing any transfer of authority to the local level; whereas, on the other hand, local government seeks more authority in order to exercise competencies and provide services to be closer to citizens. However, this principle has not been used in Kosovo, as the competencies and decentralization policies have not been driven by the lower level – to the higher level, but vice versa;

where the central government and its international partners have designed the model of the decentralization process.

The decentralization process in Kosovo appears to be a long and a challenging process, not an act that can be achieved over a short period of time. Since 2002, the decentralization process was initiated to include Serbs in the parliamentary elections, while in 2004; this process and the creation of new municipalities have come as a result of the document for local government reform. Whereas, in 2005 and 2006, decentralization was put on the agenda as the main condition under which Kosovo should work.

The greatest steps of this process come from the Ahtisaari1 package and continue with the final proposed agreement which is the Association / Community of Serb-majority municipalities2. Based on the obligations deriving from the "Ahstisaari" package in 2008, many laws and principles for local government have been approved. The decentralization process not only increased the municipal responsibilities, but also drastically transformed the physical condition of municipalities by changing borders through the increased number of municipalities to meet the citizen’s needs, especially those of the Serb community. The first two years after the independence, in 2010, the local government has been significantly transformed. The Kosovo's Constitution provided the right of local self-government and guaranteed levels of competencies to municipalities in Kosovo, thus, offering local governments a higher level of autonomy from the central level.

Local governance in Kosovo is still known for its high levels of autonomy, however, it is limited in terms of financial resources and capacities, and therefore delivers inefficient and ineffective public services.

Given these developments, eight years after the Ahtisaari package, Kosovo continues to encounter issues with the integration of municipalities in the unique system of governance, lacks coordination between institutions, and has an inefficient system that does not guarantee sustainable growth and cohesive functional decentralization. However, through a new rethinking and a functional revision of decentralization, area by area and sector by sector, the municipalities would have the opportunity to create a key platform for better service delivery, economic development and the improvement of the welfare of citizens.

http://www.kuvendikosoves.org/common/docs/Propozim%20per%20Statusin%20e%20Kosoves.pdf 2 http://www.kryeministri-ks.net/repository/docs/Asociacioni_perkthimi_shqip_-_final.pdf

–  –  –

1. Decentralization vs implementation on the ground

1.1. Decentralization as a product of the package In June 2008, Kosovo adopted its constitution which included provisions that regulate local selfgovernment under the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement of President Ahtisaari3. Regarding the local government, this "Proposal" had provided extensive competencies to municipalities in many areas, including primary and secondary education, primary and secondary health care, economic development, urban and rural planning, public housing, naming of the roads.

In order to exercise the competencies in these areas and achieve the objectives, the proposal had envisaged the transfer of legislative, financial and administrative competencies for municipalities. This "Proposal" and the agreements that emerged from this document - the Constitution, laws, decisions and other acts - require an effective implementation of the principles of an autonomous local government.

In the area of local government, all provisions of the Ahtisaari Proposal, and later the Constitution, provide a political and legal environment that reflects and respects the principles, processes, procedures, experiences and practices of developed Western democracies. It is clear that for more than a decade of state-building and consolidation of the overall Kosovo government, local government in particular has gone through a transition that is challenging for its creators and implementers at the political, administrative, technical and operational level. It is particularly important to note that in terms of local government, the central and other institutions in Kosovo have not yet resolved and addressed a new process of a functional review of the decentralization process.

It is worrying that at the local level, municipalities have not yet found real support and partnership from the central and other institutions. Moreover, political and government developments at the municipal level are often influenced by developments at other levels of governance, which threaten the autonomy and strengthening of local government.

1.2. The first steps of decentralization Through the process of applying the principles of the Ahtisaari package in a challenging and dynamic process, Kosovo has built a strongly decentralized framework of local government, which then resulted in the Law on Local Self-Government4. The Law on Local Self-Government has transferred special or shared competencies to local authorities for a broad range of services. Health care, education, social services and economic development are not only a burden to municipal authorities, but they represent enormous responsibility as well.

http:/www.unosek.org/unosek/en/statusproposal.html * For more information, look at UNMIK nr 2000/45 on local self-government in Kosovo 4 Law on Local Self-Government (Law Nr. 03/L-040), http://www.parliament.am/library/Tim/kosovo.pdf Given that these responsibilities of local government authorities directly affect the citizens of each municipality, the question and the big challenge that local government in Kosovo encountered had to do with whether the municipalities were able to exercise their new competencies and whether the establishment of new municipalities in environments inhabited by Serbs was possible.

The new legislation on municipal and administrative boundaries, local government, local finances and decentralization came into force in June 2008. 5 However, the data collected in this period show that the establishment of new municipalities did not occur and municipal authorities were not in a position to perform their services. The establishment of new municipalities does not only require a wide acceptance for their communities, but it also requires a broad participation in the process of establishment.

Although the government, in particular MLGA, continue to claim that they were in line with the Comprehensive Proposal of President Ahtisaari's 6 Comprehensive Proposal, this process was lagging in many areas.

In order to assess the progress in the implementation process of the decentralization plan and the efforts made in this direction, four key issues that were seen as challenges to the process of

decentralization were analyzed:

a) Acceptance of the community;

b) Implementation of the plan;

c) Inter-institutional cooperation; and

d) Resource mobilization towards implementation Acceptance of the community initially focused on the participation of Serb community in this important process, in order to integrate them into society.

1.3. From the package into implementation From the beginning, the process of decentralization in Kosovo was seen as a commitment by the international community to Kosovo. As such, the process had been marked by big promises from the central government, hopes and great expectations by municipalities and large dedications by international organizations which have supported the strengthening of local governance in Kosovo.

For Europe, decentralization is seen as a tool to strengthen democratization and the functioning of the political system. Modern European societies are called on the European Charter of Local SelfGovernment, approved by the Congress of the Europe’s Council in support of their decentralized systems. Among other affirmative descriptions, the European Charter states that local authorities acting within legal limits may be able to manage a considerable part of public issues, in the interest of the local population. 7 Although not a part of the Council of Europe, Kosovo has fully embraced the principles of the European Charter. In the constitution, it is defined that "the activities of local self-government bodies are based on this Constitution and laws of the Republic of Kosovo. Kosovo recognizes and respects the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

The Progress Raport for Kosovo – 2008, November2008.

Annex II of the Comprehensive Proposal of President Ahtisaari determines that actual plan on decentralization in Kosovo III The European Charter of Local Self-Government 1985 http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/en/Treaties/Html/122.htm, ‘European Charter’.

The decentralized form of governance has been a challenge for Kosovo. Although the majority of municipalities in Kosovo already apply new competencies to manage services at the local level, there is still a need to provide support and resources to them, in order to effectively implement the competencies that are attributed to them by law. It has become clear that decentralization in Kosovo is not always an easy target. Municipalities have witnessed a very complex process of planning and management of local law enforcement on the ground. Not only it has been a complex process at the local level, but it has also been difficult to explain the changes to all actors involved, including the ones who are most affected by this process; the citizens of Kosovo.

1.4. From the Ahtisaari package to the Association/ Community of Serb-Majority Municipalities The Association/Community of Serb Majority Municipalities risks to deliver controlling authority to Serbian Municipalities. This then endangers the country’s unitary system and its “one-scale” system of government8.

This process should be within the constitutional and legal framework; able to transfer administrative competences, but not political or executive competences. "Zajednica" in the Serbian language is much more than an association; it is a community or unification of some elements, including the administrative ones. A battle is expected to come with regard to the competences that the Association will have. This is among the main points of the Brussels Treaty, as it is one of the four topics that the parties have not reached an agreement yet9.

Serbia and Kosovo do not provide details regarding the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities. This process of negotiation appears to be a victory for both parties. Belgrade views this process as a tool to protect Serbian interests in Kosovo, whereas Prishtina views it as a mechanism to extend the sovereignty and extinguish the parallel Serbian structures. However, it should not be forgotten that there is the international community which has a great role and tries to integrate them in Kosovo institutions.

Considering that this has been a closed process, it leaves room for negotiating parties to represent it in different ways. Serb representatives who were legitimized after the elections in November 2013 have admitted that they do not want the Association to be registered as an NGO. As it is provided in the legislation of Kosovo, the establishment of the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities is the most important issue of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

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