By Linda Karadaku
By launching a feasibility study on Kosovo, the EU is asking the country to fulfill a set of conditions to prove that it is ready to move closer to integration.
Specifically, the main sectors that Kosovo needs to advance are rule of law, trade, public administration and economic development — bringing them all up to EU standards.
On Tuesday (March 27th), EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle launched the study — which is the first step towards signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the Union — in Pristina. ‘
‘Today’s launch … paves the way for Kosovo’s further progress towards the EU. The feasibility study will open a new era in EU-Kosovo relations. We need to maintain momentum,” Fule said.
“This will require wide public support and commitment from across the political spectrum,” Fule noted, adding that he explained to Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci “what we will do and also what we expect from his government.”
“The same goes for relations with your neighbours. It is essential for Kosovo’s future that relations with Serbia evolve rapidly and in a positive direction — this includes engaging with the Serbs in the north of Kosovo,” Fule said.
He also set some deadlines for Kosovo, and said the EU will send a mission in June to review the country’s progress.
“On the rule of law, I want to launch a structured dialogue with Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci and Minister of Internal Affairs Bajram Rexhepi in Brussels at the end of May,” Fule said.
Minister for European Integrations Vlora Citaku said integration in the EU is one of the most powerful consensus Kosovo has reached as a society.
“It will become concrete now with a [set] guide of reforms we have to undertake — not only as a government — but as a society,” Citaku told SETimes.
Kosovo analyst and university professor Belul Beqaj says the most difficult reform will be the so-called Madrid criteria for public administration.
“[It will be] difficult to fulfill this one [due to] the extensive politisation of the administration and lack of budget for their professional qualification,” Beqaj tells SETimes.
He said that the harmonisation of Kosovo laws with EU legislation will have a high a financial cost as well.
“This financial cost cannot be achieved under the current circumstances,” he said, referring to the worldwide economic crisis, as well as to Kosovo’s budget deficit.
Thaci underlined that Kosovo will have to fulfill the European criteria and become equal with states in the region.
“The first decade of this century can be considered a period of establishing the state of Kosovo; this decade is the decade of Europeanisation and integration of Kosovo into Euro-Atlantic structures,” Thaci told reporters Tuesday.
Countries in the region have moved closer to the EU after years of negotiating and fulfilling the requested criteria.
Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia joined the EU in 2007. Croatia has signed and ratified the accession treaty and expects to join the Union next year. Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia are candidates to become members, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania have signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
Pristina resident Naim Neziri said people understand “the EU has conditions for any state that wants to join … these are their conditions. It is up to us now on how and how much we will do to fulfill them,” Neziri told SETimes.
Mimosa Hasanramaj is more cautious. “It would take years to fulfill all those conditions … who knows when we will really get into the EU,” she told SETimes.