OpEd

Barometer of European Reforms

Now that enlargement is again at the epicenter of the EU's attention, Kosovo must redouble its efforts towards the implementation of European reforms. Today's publication of the European Reform Barometer is a modest contribution of civil society towards this sublime goal

It was once a long time ago, a time when EU integration was the highest priority of this country. Over 90% of citizens wanted EU membership. Politicians were pushed to take pictures with senior EU officials. Every party was talking about the importance of the European Union and our integration into the EU. Even our entire national identity was promoted as "New Europeans". Europe was so attractive at that time that the parties believed that just mentioning the name Europe wins the elections. Thus, we witnessed the election slogans "For European Kosovo", "For European Pristina", and so on.

But that time is no more. Over time, the idea of ​​European integration lost its luster. Kosovo's integration path was practically suspended. After the entry into force of the Stabilization-Association Agreement in 2016, Kosovo did not take any further steps towards the EU. In fact, quite the opposite, Kosovo was placed under European sanctions. Kosovo's integration path was replaced by the dialogue process and consequently any discussion about the importance of essential European reforms, such as the rule of law, public administration reform or the quality of education, was replaced by the discussion about dialogue and topics such as identity cards, license plates or elections.

This is to an extent understandable. Undoubtedly, immediate political emergencies, such as dialogue crises, will overturn any discussion of long-term European reforms. But on the other hand, the Government can definitely do two things at the same time: both deal with the emergencies of the dialogue and advance the European reforms.

In the end, in the entire government, only two people deal with the dialogue, therefore the question arises, what are the other 15 ministers doing?

It is in this framework that with colleagues from civil society we have started a several-month discussion on what we can do as civil society to turn the attention of our public discourse towards European reforms in the hope that this will give a new dynamic to our integration process .

After many discussions and debates, the idea of ​​the European Reforms Barometer was born, which is published for the first time today. The barometer is a kind of "European championship", which aims to rank the performance of ministers in undertaking European reforms.

The European Reforms Barometer has three primary goals: (1) to advance the public discourse on the implementation of European reforms, communicating the respective reforms in a clear and comprehensible manner; (2) to increase the transparency and accountability of the institutions, offering a strict but fair evaluation of the performance of the line ministries; and (3) to support ministries in the most effective design of European reforms, providing objective and empirical analysis on the government's planning framework in the field of European integration.

To achieve this, we had to design a unique methodology, which aims to make a holistic assessment of the Government's planning framework in the field of European integration, based on two main executive planning documents in the field of European integration: The Plan National for European Integration and the European Reform Agenda.

The traditional evaluation of the Government's performance is based exclusively on one evaluative criterion: the degree of applicability of the planning framework. However, we have considered that such an assessment would not be sufficient and fair; and as such would provide us with a distorted picture of the ministries' performance in the integration process. Consequently, the barometer methodology is based on four assessment criteria which provide a more holistic and fair assessment:

1. The first complexity criterion assesses the difficulty of the Government's measures. So, not all the measures planned by the line ministries have equal weight and difficulty. Some measures are much more difficult to implement than others. Preparing a strategy and organizing a training are not the same thing. Consequently, the purpose of this criterion is to ensure that the final evaluation of the performance of the ministries in the implementation of the European reforms takes into account the complexity of the measures to which the ministries have committed themselves, thus rewarding those ministries that have done a more serious and more planning advanced European reforms. This criterion carries 25% of the total evaluation points.

2. The second criterion assesses the accuracy of the Government's planning framework in the integration process. So, it is important that the measures that the Government has foreseen within its planning framework are in harmony with the obligations that the Government has taken within the integration process. In other words, the purpose of this criterion is to ensure that the Government is doing the right things in the integration process, thus rewarding those ministries that have ensured a greater compatibility between the obligations in the integration process and the planning framework of the ministry. This criterion carries 35% of the total evaluation points.

3. The third criterion is a classic criterion, which simply evaluates the applicability of the planning framework by the ministries, thus rewarding the ministries with the highest degree of implementation of measures within the integration process. This criterion carries 30% of the total evaluation points.

4. The fourth criterion is the evaluation of an external factor for the performance of each ministry, and it is the evaluation of the European Commission within the EU report. The EU report provides a quantifiable assessment of Kosovo's annual performance within the various EU chapters. To a large extent, these chapters correspond to the mandates and responsibilities of the line ministries. Consequently, the purpose of this criterion is to reward with additional points those ministries which the European Commission has assessed as having made greater annual progress than the previous year. This criterion carries 10% of the total evaluation points.

The total collection of points obtained within these four criteria provides the final result and ranking of the ministries' performance within the framework of the implementation of European reforms. Each ministry eventually earns a number of points on a scale from 0 to 100, according to the following grading:

1. 0-25 points: poor performance

2. 26-50 points: limited performance

3. 51-75 points: good performance

4. 76-100 points: very good performance.

It should be underlined that the unification of the barometer lies in the fact that a special methodology had to be designed, which on the one hand will be quite technical to analyze the complex and voluminous framework of the Government's planning in the field of European integration, but on the other hand it will be simple and clear enough to be understood not only by line ministries, but also by the general public. This is also the reason why the final product of the barometer consists of three levels of information for three different audiences.

The first and most voluminous level is that of the technical evaluation of the ministries in Excel format. This barometer level is intended for expert-level technical discussions. It also serves as a technical database for the construction of other barometer levels.

The second level of the barometer is the one in Word format, which presents Excel technical data in a more understandable and readable format for the audience that does not follow the integration process on a daily basis. This level of the barometer is intended for the level of institutional decision-makers, foreign embassies, NGOs and the media.

The third level of the barometer is that of the online platform, which visually and interactively presents the most important findings related to the performance of the ministries in the integration process. This level of the barometer is intended for a wide audience, in which case anyone with one click can understand the responsibilities and performance of the ministries within the European reforms.

Now that we have clarified what the barometer is, the time has come to make public the results of the first edition of the European Reforms Barometer for 2023.

The Government of the Republic of Kosovo consists of 15 ministries, plus the Office of the Prime Minister. Three of these ministries (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Force and the Ministry of Regional Development) are not part of the barometer, as they have not had obligations within the Kosovo integration process. This leaves us with 13 ministries (including the Prime Minister's Office) which ultimately remained part of the barometer.

Of the thirteen ministries, eight ministries have shown good performance and five ministries have shown limited performance in implementing European reforms in 2023.

The eight ministries with good performance are:

1. Ministry of Economy, with 64 points

2. Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure, with 64 points

3. Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, with 60 points

4. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Regional Development, with 60 points

5. Ministry of Internal Affairs, with 56 points

6. Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade, with 56 points

7. Ministry of Justice, with 53 points; AND

8. Ministry of Finance, Labor and Transfers, with 53 points.

Eight ministries with limited performance are:

1. Ministry of Return and Communities, with 46 points

2. Ministry of Health, with 45 points

3. Office of the Prime Minister, with 39 points

4. Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, with 36 points; AND

5. Ministry of Local Government Administration, with 29 points.

In the end, this resulted in the final assessment of the entire Government with a total of 51 points, thus evaluating the entire government cabinet with a good performance in undertaking European reforms during 2023.

Today's publication of the European Reforms Barometer is only the first step in our effort to contribute to raising the public discourse on the country's integration process. We hope that the barometer will increase public interest in the importance of European reforms, thus motivating line ministries for an even better performance in planning and implementing European reforms in 2024.

In the end, these reforms will not improve the lives of citizens in Paris and Berlin, but our lives here in Pristina and Mitrovica.