Transparency, citizens of Kosovo have no access in state institutions

Transparency, citizens of Kosovo have no access in state institutions

IBNA Special Report/Analysts, journalists and representatives of NGOs in Kosovo say that the main state institutions are not transparent with the public in publishing official documents that they possess, although the law sanctions it. In this special report, IBNA hears from the minister of European Integration, Vlora Citaku, analyst Shkelzen Dakaj, professor of European law, Muhamer Pajaziti, etc.

Pristina, April 15, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Elton Tota

Lack of transparency in the publication of decisions accompanies all ministries in Kosovo. This happens in spite of the fact that such thing is a legal obligation which emanates from the right to be informed on official documents.

Analyst and journalist, Shkelzen Dakaj says for IBNA that the right of access to public documents is not respected and applied, although the Constitution of Kosovo guarantees this. He also points out the fact that Kosovo has accepted and signed a number of international agreements and conventions, such as General Declaration for human Rights, European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Liberties and the Protocols. Their application in the Republic of Kosovo is mandatory.

“In journalistic investigations, I have often requested documents from different ministries. I have almost never been able to access the necessary information or data. The majority of institutions still have no special register for the inquiries relating to the right of information. Even if in several cases, such register exists, the procedures to access such information are very long and tiring”, says Dakaj.

Transparency, one of the main principles of the EU

Professor of European law, Muhamer Pajaziti told IBNA that the situation in the domain of free access to information in the Balkan region, including Kosovo, is miserable. He says that this happens although there’s a legal framework and legislation on the free access in official documents.

Pajaziti says that integration depends on the fulfillment of the standards required by the European Union, which without any doubt, includes the application of the law for free access to information.

“Democracy is one of the main principles of the EU. Meanwhile, a prequisite of this democracy consists on the fact that citizens must have adequate information on what authorities have done, what they are doing and what they’re planning to do.

Without sufficient information, civil society will not be able to evaluate the performance of those for which they have voted for”, says Pajaziti.

He says that in those EU countries where the mechanisms for the application of the law on free access to public documents exist, there’s discontent.

“Since its foundation, the European Union has applied legislation for free access and transparency. Several treaties such as the EU Treaty, Maastricht Treaty, Amsterdam Treaty and other treaties have been approved in this aspect. There have also been several regulations which guarantee free access of civil society in the documents of all institutions of this organization. Nevertheless, discontent and requests of the citizens in several EU countries are obvious. The number of complaints of unhappy citizens who want a free access in different documents, is growing. Based on the data of the European Ombudsman, the number of requests amounts to 5 thousand a year”, adds he.

Sources from the Organization for Regional Cooperation and European Integration (ORCEI) told IBNA that the citizens of Kosovo find difficulties in securing government documents, laws and normative acts which are approved by the government and the ministries. ORCEI says that this comes as a result of the lack of transparency.

“Citizens want to know and it’s their right to be informed as to what is the wage of a minister, who won a particular tender, how polluted is the air in a particular city, who won a vacancy in a particular ministry, how much has been spent in the construction of an object, etc. This is why there should be more work on this”, say sources from ORCEI.

“Speak” Movement says that the domain of communication and public information continues to be perceived as a restricted domain of policies in terms of the access to public documents. “Not all groups of interests are involved when these policies are approved in municipalities or communes. Since the start of the drafting of several policies, there’s a lack of the groups of interest. There’s also a lack of monitoring for the application of the local legislation and policies in all sectors and domains of life in Kosovo”, says this movement.

According to a study conducted by this organization, Customs of Kosovo are the most transparent institution as far as communication and public information is concerned. Meanwhile, Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is the most isolated institution in this aspect.

Citaku: We’re committed to the principles of open governance

Minister of European Integration, Vlora Citaku has a different positioning as far as transparency is concerned. She says that the Republic of Kosovo is committed to the principles of open governance and accountability.

“Kosovo is a young state, facing a number of challenges in all domains of society. Corruption is still a concern and a serious challenge for the country. The growth of transparency is the best way to fight and prevent corruption. In the framework of the efforts to increase transparency, Kosovo is trying to become a member of the Organization of Partnership and Transparency. We see the accession in this organization as an opportunity to intensify the efforts made so far to develop capacities and increase transparency”, says Citaku.

The minister says that the government of Kosovo, in cooperation with representatives of civil society, business sector and other groups of interest, has drafted the National Action Plan 2014-2016. This plan includes 4 out of 5 main challenges of OPT: Improvement of public services, improvement of public integrity, more efficient management of public sources and more accountability of corporations. /ibna/