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How Kosovo’s Grassroot Political Party Is Championing Anti-Corruption Crusade

Since its independence in 2008, corruption in Kosovo has been perceived as systemic, endemic and a major challenge for the country. Transparency International in its 2020 CPI ranking put the country at 104 out of 180 jurisdictions, with a score of 36.

Anti-corruption reforms have not been successful so far for many reasons, including political instability.

Citizens of Kosovo on February 14, went all out to cast their vote for parliamentary elections. That day, Kosovo witnessed deep democratization where a grass-root movement named Vetevendosje (“self-determination” in English) won the elections with the highest percentage any one party has ever reached since the war in 1999.

Built upon the platform to free the country from corruption, this victory may be a turning point for the anti-corruption reform for the region and the small country of Kosovo.

The new government, however, is expected to have a full lifespan. Hence, hopes for the situation to change remain high.

Experts say, for this to happen, it will all depend on five variables:

First is that, despite promises to fight corruption, the winning party’s anti-corruption reform program is based on two elements; a vetting of law enforcement bodies and an anti-mafia law.

Vlora Marmullakaj, Senior project officer for the Project Against Economic Crime implemented by the Council of Europe

According to Vlora Marmullakaj, a senior project officer for the Project Against Economic Crime implemented by the Council of Europe, “neither of the two actions will work unless all system elements are functioning cumulatively. The new government must first and foremost put in place a clear policy and a roadmap for reform, avoiding one-off ad hoc initiatives as happened in the past.

Second is that,The reference for designing an anti-corruption policy must inherently be based on international standards, including UNCAC and Council of Europe conventions.

The third is that, while most of the past reforms have related to amending and adopting new pieces of legislation, it is high time to put those laws into action. The main problems remain implementing the laws through institutions which have clarity in their mandates.

Fourth is the building of institutional integrity and ethics in a country that has to cope with invisible family ties, nepotism, and patronage networks is an enormous challenge. Although the leader of the new governing party enjoys the status of a clean and uncorrupted figure, his success will largely depend on the will to set up a government that will lead by example.

Finally, building coalitions with Civil Society must be part of the anti-corruption agenda. Civil Society in Kosovo has proven to be a wheel for change on many occasions in the past — for example, in the process of developing and adopting new legislation or reacting against actions to undermine anti-corruption efforts.

Changing a country’s reputation from heavily corrupt to clean is never easy. But in Kosovo, the hopes for determination of Vetevendosje (self determination) to have a lasting impact are high.

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