The EU and the Protection of the Environment in Kosovo
The EU is committed to paving the way for Kosovo to become a country that abides by European values and principles and establishes relations with Serbia. The EU has invested in Kosovo by creating new laws in accordance with EU laws and institutions that are fashioned after EU member states’ institutions. However, the payback is uncertain. Kosovo has a less than clear attitude towards this EU commitment because of its unstable political environment, which has led to its suspension of the implementation of the 2013 EU-brokered agreement between Serbia and Kosovo (EEAS 2013).
On 27 October 2015, after long and difficult negotiations that began in 2013, the EU signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, a legal instrument designed to guide relations between Kosovo and the EU, and on 2 November 2015, the National Assembly of Kosovo signed it. On 26 January 2016, the European Parliament ratified it as an EU- only agreement that will not need to be ratified by individual member states, using the traditional formula of a mixed agreement, concluded by the EU and its member states. With this formula, the agreement will soon enter into force despite the five member states that do not recognize Kosovo as a state: Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain.
The EU’s action in relation to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement has been aimed at transforming Kosovo into a country that would be able to transition into accession, hence its promotion of the incorporation of the EU environmental acquis into Kosovo’s new policies and legislation, as foreseen in its Article 115:
The Parties shall develop and strengthen their cooperation in the environmental field with the vital task of halting further degradation and start improving the environmental situation with the aim of sustainable development in Kosovo. The Parties shall cooperate in the fields of air and water quality (including with regard to radioactive substances in water intended for human consumption), basic safety standards for protection against dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation, all types of waste management (including responsible and safe management of radioactive waste) and nature protection, monitoring and reducing industrial emissions, ensuring safety at industrial installations, and classification and safe handling of chemicals in Kosovo.
The Parties shall, in particular, establish cooperation with the aim of strengthening Kosovo’s administrative structures and procedures to ensure strategic planning of environment issues and coordination between relevant actors and shall focus on gradual approximation of Kosovo’s legislation to the EU acquis and where appropriate Euratom acquis. Cooperation could also centre on the development by Kosovo of strategies to significantly reduce local, regional and trans-boundary air and water pollution, to establish a framework for efficient, clean, sustainable and renewable production and consumption of energy, and to execute environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment. (Council 2015, p. 125)
Nevertheless, the European Commission has recognized that overall ‘Kosovo has not progressed beyond the very initial stages of harmonization with the acquis in these areas. There has been little progress on new legislation and implementing existing laws’ (European Commission 2014, p. 42). However, to enhance future cooperation, better compliance with monitoring and reporting commitments should be requested to document the outcomes of the European investment. Accountability of Kosovo activities is limited as information is not available (European Commission 2013, p. 9). The European Commission has acknowledged that the administrative capacity within environmental and climate sectors is weak in Kosovo, in particular, it considers that the capacity of Kosovar institutions needs to be strengthened to improve their effectiveness. This problem is more acute because the budget of the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning (MESP) remains insufficient and the funding for sewage systems, wastewater treatment, and waste treatment and disposal systems remain outside government expenditure plans. So far, Kosovo has failed to establish a mechanism to finance environmental projects, in particular the operating costs of environmental monitoring of institutions and capital investments. So, for example, the green taxes that have been introduced for car registration are not being allocated to any environmental projects. It is of utmost importance that the quality of environmental reporting improves in order to better inform government policies (European Commission 2014). For the European Commission, one of the unresolved issues is that the environment is not yet a government priority.
-  This lack of consensus on the status of Kosovo among the member states has led the EU to adopta special formula to refer to Kosovo in its documents, including the Stabilisation and AssociationAgreement: ‘this designation is without prejudice to positions on status [from the Member States],and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration ofindependence’ (Fajardo 2015, p. 11).