21 September 1999
South-East Europe following the Kosovo conflict: political situation
Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities
Rapporteur: Mr G. Martinez-Casan, Spain, EPP/CD
In 1989 the status of Kosovo as an autonomous region was suspended and, since then, jobs with the local authorities had been reserved for staff of Serbian origin. As a result, a parallel system of local administration had been developed by the Kosovar population of Albanian origin and is still in operation to this day.
Furthermore, since the region's autonomous status was suspended by the MiloseviÁ regime, Kosovars of Albanian origin have been excluded from all real estate transactions.
During the withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces, land ownership deeds and records covering more than 40% of the territory were destroyed and the remainder removed. The result is that there is now no documentary record of who owns what land in the Kosovo region.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most Kosovars of Albanian origin have no identity papers, which makes it even more difficult to establish ownership rights.
Staff at municipal level lack training and the budgets of the region's 29 municipalities are insufficient to provide even basic municipal services such as mains water supplies and waste and sewage management.
Under these circumstances one can but welcome the fact that the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) considered it important to give priority to re-establishing local democracy with a view to holding local elections, and that with this aim in mind it has begun to appoint representatives of the international community as "mayors" of the existing bodies, with a view to reorganising the municipalities. In fact, it is important that such representatives be appointed in all the municipalities.
In the present transition phase the role of the municipalities is capital, in so far as they must be able to supply the most urgent services and contribute to a certain stability.
First and foremost, this means remedying the lack of training of administrative staff, so that they are able to accomplish the tasks required of them. With this in view, the Parliamentary Assembly fully supports the UNMIK proposal to set up a local government training institute in order to train the staff who will be responsible for administering local affairs following the elections. It further proposes that the Council of Europe place its experience and know-how at the disposal of this initiative.
In addition, the population also needs instruction in such matters as civic rights and political pluralism, preferably before the elections which the UNMIK will probably be organising in the year 2000.
This could be another task for the training institute referred to above.
As they carry out their duties, the representatives appointed by the UNMIK at municipal level could base their proposals on some of the legal instruments developed by the Council of Europe.
The status and powers of the municipalities should be in keeping with the provisions of the Council of Europe's European Charter of Local Self-Government, but other instruments, such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, must serve as reference documents.
The problems that exist at municipal level are numerous and varied, ranging from insufficient funds to the lack of training of future administrative officers, and from the lack of organisation of administrative bodies to the need for a proper recruitment policy for municipal staff.
The complexity of many of these tasks and the fact that they are things which need to be done before the municipalities can begin to function properly call for careful consideration when it comes to setting an election date. It would be ill-advised to set too early a date as this might well compromise the task of the newly elected municipal authorities from the outset.
Proposed amendments to the preliminary draft recommendation presented by the Political Affairs Committee
After paragraph 6, add two new paragraphs, as follows:
The Assembly stresses the importance of the role the municipalities can play in Kosovo and the fact that priority should be given to setting up local authorities with adequate human and financial resources to cater for the most urgent needs of the population and contribute to the implementation of democracy and the rule of law in the region.
With this in mind, the Assembly fully supports the setting-up of a training institute to train future administrative staff, to which the Council of Europe could make a major contribution through its experience and know-how in the field of local democracy.
In paragraph 14.b.iv, change "political and financial support" to "political, financial and technical support".
Committee for report: Political Affairs Committee
Committee for opinion: Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities
Opinion approved by the committee on 21 September 1999
1 See Doc. 8533