Kosovo citizens position on European integration and level of information about the process discussed online

Roundtable 28.05.2021

The Democratic Institute of Kosovo (KDI) held today an online thematic discussion “How the citizens understand the process of Kosovo’s integration towards the EU”, marking the conclusion of the 1-year project “Promotion of common European values”. Preliminary findings from an online questionnaire that KDI has conducted regarding the stance of citizens on European integration in general and on the European Union in particular were presented during this discussion.

In this virtual roundtable with EU policy experts, civil society representatives and students, there was discussion about the position of the citizens of Kosovo on European integration. Among other things, experts in the field presented their views on the challenges and the way ahead for Kosovo in the integration process and to what extent the citizens are informed about what the EU offers in economic, social, political and cultural terms.

Agnesa Haxhiu, project manager at KDI said during the presentation of the findings that the online questionnaire was launched in early May and was conducted with 500 respondents, and added that the same questionnaire is being conducted in three other countries that are implementing the same project in Hungary, Northern Macedonia and Romania and informed that the full report with these data will be published in the coming days. Preliminary data from this questionnaire show that about 78% of respondents stated that they would vote positively in case of a possible referendum on EU membership, on the other hand over 67% of respondents believe that Kosovo would benefit greatly from this membership. About 60% of respondents believe that the EU has done little to promote Kosovo’s path to EU membership, but a percentage of about 47% think that the EU influence in shaping policies in Kosovo has been huge.

Eraldin Fazliu from Prishtina Insight, speaking on the attitudes of citizens regarding European integration, said in the public discourse in Kosovo on the one hand there is no alternative to European integration, but on the other hand there has been a lack of debates in Kosovo on why the EU accession is useful. According to him, citizens are not informed about the economic, political and cultural impact that EU membership could have, despite the fact that they support European integration. He stressed that although it has always been proclaimed in the public discourse that we are on the road to the EU, if they look at the socio-economic aspect, Kosovo has been constantly stalled. For this reason, according to him, the citizens of Kosovo see visa liberalization as very important because they consider it as an opportunity to leave Kosovo in search of a better development perspective for them.

On the other hand, Besnik Vasolli – expert on the European integration process said that the EU is not building on the trust that the citizens of the Western Balkans have in the European perspective, which is also reflected in the EU members not showing interest in the enlargement process.  This approach of the EU, according to him, has encouraged Western Balkans countries not to prioritize the necessary reforms, and to continue with the capture of the state and with crime and corruption. Regarding Kosovo’s progress in undertaking reforms within the integration process, Mr. Vasolli assessed as poor the performance of institutions in this regard, pointing out there has been little progress in the implementation of the SAA so far.

Whereas Senem Safçi from KCSF considered as positive the high level of trust the citizens of Kosovo have in the European perspective and in the values promoted by the EU such as democracy, rule of law, protection of human rights, freedom of the media, etc. According to her, a distinction should be made between the proper implementation and efficiency of these values by Kosovo institutions and the importance given by the citizens of Kosovo to these values. Therefore, according to her, the active participation of citizens in the implementation and strengthening of these values is important, while institutions should create mechanisms to inform and build capacity for citizens to be involved in these decision-making processes.

The discussion was organized within the project “Promotion of Common European Values” funded by the ‘Europe for Citizens’ program and implemented by KDI together with three partner organizations, Transparency International from Hungary, Transparency International Macedonia and the Experts Forum from Romania.