Focal points: stability and security in the region, further progress in the fight against corruption and strengthening the role of women in society:
The Secretary of State at the Ministry of the Interior, Mag. Karoline Edtstadler, visited on 4 and 5 September 2018, together with the Special Adviser of the European Commission for the EU enlargement countries Franz Schausberger, Kosovo. The purpose of this working visit was to strengthen security and stability in the region and to assist the Republic of Kosovo in the fight against corruption. “Corruption can erode a state and jeopardize it in the long term. The fight against corruption is also crucial for Kosovo in terms of the EU integration process. Austria would like to help with their expertise in order to make further progress”, said Edtstadler in an interview with the Kosovar Minister of the Interior, Bejtush Gashi, as well as during her visit to the Agency for Combating and Preventing Corruption. In this context, the State Secretary also referred to the planned study visit by a Kosovo delegation on combating corruption from 11 to 12 September 2018 in Vienna.
Franz Schausberger, Karoline Edtstadler and Minister of Interior Bejtush Gashi
In addition to a visit to the Serbian Orthodox monastery church in Gracanica, a visit to the Jahjaga Foundation (founded by the former Kosovar President Atifete Jahjaga) and the Kosovo Women Network was also part of the State Secretary’s program. Both organizations are committed to strengthening the role of women in society. “The Kosovo Women Network and the Jahjaga Foundation are doing valuable work to boost women’s self-esteem. That is also a big concern for me. As part of the Task Force on Criminal Law, I want to support women who are victims of violent and sexual offenses, so they dare to file complaints and turn to victim protection institutions”, said the State Secretary.
Edtstadler and Schausberger also met Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj and discussed the current situation surrounding the negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. Hoxhaj and Schausberger agreed that the ultimate goal must be to reach a legally binding, sustainable agreement between Serbia and Kosovo as soon as possible. This is crucial not only for the Western Balkans, but for peace throughout Europe.
As Kosovar Interior Minister Gashi emphasized, 90 percent of Kosovars who emigrated to Western Europe in 2014/15 have since returned to Kosovo. Cooperations with 22 countries and its own “returnees program” would have contributed to that. A third of the Kosovars already live legally in Western Europe since the years after the war on the Western Balkans.
Kosovo is also involved in the Task Force on the fight against smuggling.
Franz Schausberger plans action “Mayors help mayors”: counteract the rural depopulation!
As a special advisor to the European Commission for the Western Balkans, Franz Schausberger completed his own visit program to find out more about the situation of the communities in Kosovo. He completed a “ministerial marathon”: Mahir Yagcillar, Minister of Public Administration, Rasim Demiri, Minister of Rural Development, Rozafa Ukimeraj, Secretary General of the Ministry of Local Government, and Agim Veliu, President of the Municipal Union of Kosovo. “Without efficient and democratically led communities, people in their homeland will not want to see a future and emigrate”, said Schausberger. The rural depopulation to the cities or abroad can only be counteracted by strengthening rural communities. In Kosovo, there are only 38 municipalities, which means that they are much too large and the proximity to the local representatives is not nearly as big as in Austria. Moreover, the problem of the four Serbian communities in northern Kosovo is completely unresolved.
Minister of Public Administration Mahir Yagcilar and Franz Schausberger
To fulfil the conditions of Kosovo on the way to a common Europe, the municipalities play an important role. However, they can only fulfil conditions if they have the necessary capacities and know-how. In the communities of Kosovo, there is a lack of professionalism, experience and knowledge, which makes a community work well, said Schausberger.
The municipal administrations are sometimes far from the European standard. The use of financial resources alone is not a sustainable solution unless local politicians and local government officials have the necessary knowledge and experience of a well-functioning community and proper local policies.
He therefore intends to launch an action “Mayors help mayors” through his Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE), which is not about profit, but about knowledge transfer and exchange of experience, explained Schausberger. He wants to find mayors of Salzburg’s municipalities who are willing to invite mayors from the Western Balkans to show them well-functioning local governments using the example of their own community.