By: Genc Namani

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Local economic development- an exclusive competence of the municipalities and a priority of the Government of Kosovo for 2019- was the main topic of discussion during the first consultative meeting in 2019 between the Government of Kosovo and the Mayors of the Republic of Kosovo.

In his speech, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Mr. Ramush Haradinaj spoke about prioritizing Local Economic Development for Kosovo Municipalities. He said that “being aware of the importance of discussion about local economic development as is an exclusive right of the municipalities, in the capacity of the Prime Minister of the country, I want to discuss this topic as well as set priorities and objectives for 2019 together with you”. In order to establish the legal basis for sustainable municipal development, during 2018 the Government undertook several actions such as: drafting policies for local economic development by proceeding to the Assembly the “Draft Law on Allocation for Use and Exchange of Immovable Property of the Municipality, adopting the “Five year Government Strategy for Economic Development” which serves as a guideline towards sustainable local development, enhance municipal financial viability, attract foreign investments, empower local economic development through investment in human recourses and utilizing municipal resources in the function of sustainable local economic development.The President of the Association of Kosovo Municipalities (AKM), Mr. Agim Veliu while addressing the audience on behalf of Kosovo Municipalities, said that “I am speaking on behalf of AKM, the only mechanism that represents and protects the interests of Kosovo municipalities. Hence, in this case let me raise some issues that are related to Local Economic Development”.

“As mentioned previously at the National Council for Economic Development, the Association of Kosovo Municipalities welcomed the approval of the Draft Law on Allocation for Use and Exchange of Immovable Property of the Municipality during the first reading at the Kosovo Assembly. As a result of the good cooperation between AKM, the Ministry of Local Government Administration (MLGA) and Parliamentary Committee on Local Self-Government, all municipal recommendations are incorporated into the final draft law. We believe that after the implementation of the draft law the situation regarding Local Economic Development will change in a positive way. The amendment of this law has been a request from municipalities, considering that the actual law was difficult to implement especially the part of attracting potential investors for investments in municipalities”, he said.

Furthermore, the AKM Board discussed the 2019 Legislative Agenda highlighting the draft laws in which Kosovo municipalities, through AKM, will be part of the working groups that will draft them. Out of 74 draft laws foreseen in the Legislative Strategy, the Association of Kosovo Municipalities will request to participate in the drafting and amendment process of 21 draft laws. Several draft laws are expected to have direct impact on the economic development”, the president of AKM added.

“The Association of Kosovo Municipalities has already submitted recommendations regarding the Law on Public Private Partnerships and the Law on Forests-two laws that are directly linked to local economic development. All of our recommendations are incorporated in these two draft laws. This was confirmed at the last meeting of the National Council for Economic Development and we believe that after their approval the investment opportunities in municipalities will increase. Our request is to decentralize the procedures for contractual relations for public-private partnerships, while we also want properties that are not being used and are under the administration of the Forestry Agency to be returned to municipalities and managed or used by them for public interest purposes.

Additionally, we want the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning to immediately proceed with the drafting of five (5) administrative instructions regarding the initiation of the legalization process for construction without permit. It is worth mentioning, that the Law on Legalizing Constructions without Permit, despite being adopted at the end of August 2018, is not being implemented yet due to the lack of these administrative instructions.

Several draft laws, which are part of the legislative strategy, have a direct impact on Local Economic Development. However, without the involvement of the Association in the drafting process, the implementation will be very difficult. An example of it is the Draft Law on Local Finances, which without the involvement of the Association in the drafting process, would be impossible to implement. All given recommendations and future ones during the drafting process will be significant for municipalities.

Other draft laws that will be drafted as well will also have a great impact on local economic development such as: Draft Law on Public Property, Draft Law on Construction Land, Draft Law on Inspection, Draft Law on Economic Zones, Draft Law on Tourism, etc. Therefore, we want to ask you that you take into account all the recommendations that are given by the AKM because problems regarding Local Economic Development have to do with our municipalities.

On the other hand, the AKM as well as Municipalities are aware that decisions related to the allocation of properties to Kosovo municipalities, managed by the Privatization Agency of Kosovo (PAK) are expected to be decided on by the Constitutional Court. All previous decisions are suspended. Nevertheless, this should not be considered as an obstacle for the Government to transfer properties administered by other state agencies to Municipalities for management and long-term use. We believe that the cooperation between the Association of Kosovo Municipalities and the Government of the Republic of Kosovo will continue to increase, thus, enhancing Local Economic Development even more”- said among other things AKM President, Mr. Agim Veliu.

Following the course of the meeting, several other issues related to local economic were discussed as well by the Mayors.