Corruption Cases Block Kosovo’s Visa Aspirations

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Corruption Cases Block Kosovo’s Visa Aspirations

After the Kosovo Parliament ratified the Agreement on border demarcation with Montenegro on March 21, another obstacle stands in the way of the youngest European country towards its struggle to achieve visa liberalization, as the last country in the region that remains isolated, even 10 years after its declaration of independence.

Though the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci declared days after the ratification of this agreement, that Kosovo has delivered all the criteria for the visa liberalization, the last criterion which has to do with corruption still remains unfulfilled.

Fighting corruption is the last benchmark that Kosovo needs to fulfill for visa free travel, within the framework of which the country must now close 39 earmarked court cases, 19 of which are currently ongoing.

Kosovo leaders pledge they’ll fight corruption

However, the main government officials in Kosovo are aware that a lot more work has to be done to fight corruption. Even President Thaci admits that “though concrete steps have been taken in the fight against corruption, there’s still work to do”.

According to Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index, Kosovo ranks 85th globally, which is a way better position compared to the previous years. The government has also adopted a number of laws, regulations and strategies, among which the Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan 2018-2022, that seeks to improve policies and further good governance.

On the meantime, Kosovo ministers and other officials have pledged that a lot more will be done in this direction, in order to be able to achieve visa-free travel to the Schengen zone. The Minister of Justice, Abelard Tahiri, reiterated through a post on Twitter that corruption would not stop Kosovo from achieving visa-free travel.

“I met with representatives of the institutions of the justice system. Corruption will not hinder Kosovo’s European perspective and free movement of our citizens,” Tahiri wrote on Twitter.

Whereas, the Minister of European Integration, Dhurata Hoxha, showed her optimism that Kosovo citizens would be traveling without visas in the EU Schengen area within 2018.

“We are optimistic that Kosovo citizens will move freely without visas within 2018,” Hoxha told to one of the Kosovo televisions.

The Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj has also pledged since the beginning of his mandate at the end of last year, that the government he leads will fight corruption and achieve visa liberalization.

Kosovo charges 11 party officials with political cronyism

Just a few weeks after the majority of Kosovo MPs voted pro the ratification of the demarcation agreement with Montenegro, thus fulfilling one of the last two criteria to achieve visa liberalization, 11 people have been indicted for allegedly handing out state jobs to people based on their political affiliation.

These people, among whom the current Minister of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Besim Beqaj, are part of the President Hashim Thaci‘s ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and are accused of “granting unlawful privileges and advantages” to people seeking state jobs.

EU officials have accused Kosovo’s PDK party, which rules in Kosovo since 2007, that it has done very little in the fight against ingrained corruption and organized crime.