Kosovo Foundation for Open Society
Kosovo Foundation for Open Society

State-building in post-independence Kosovo: Policy Challenges and Societal Considerations

State-building in post-independence Kosovo: Policy Challenges and Societal Considerations

Almost ten years since independence, Kosovo remains in deep crisis and challenged by a powerful mix of political, economic and social problems. To name but few: the consolidation of Kosovo’s international status is slow, with no certain end in sight; corruption is rampant and economic prospects for most Kosovars, and especially the young, remain bleak; the re-integration of the Serbian community and genuine reconciliation are still in need of a real breakthrough; the once-promising dialogue with Serbia is stalled; political polarization is on the rise, while citizens’ trust in democratic institutions and their political leaders are at an all time low.

While some of these problems have in recent years become more acute it can plausibly be argued
that they are not at all novel. What is, however, relatively new is a growing distrust in the international community’s capacity to lead Kosovo out of the quagmire. The citizens of Kosovo remain among the most pro-Western peoples in Europe. But gone are the days when Kosovars had absolute trust in the international community as the central actor designing reforms and guiding policymaking. Kosovars still desire their country’s entry to the European Union and its anchoring to the West, but their trust in their international protectors’ ability to deliver these is seriously weakened.

It is worth remembering that what Kosovo is experiencing – early hopes, massive international
assistance, deadlocked reforms, crisis of strategy, persistent and multilevel crisis, citizens’ frustration – is not new in the region. Bosnia-Herzegovina, another post-conflict democracy challenged by immense problems and receiving massive international support, experienced a similar situation that eventually led to a psychological rift between the international overseers and the Bosnian citizenry. The process of gradual failure in Bosnia was monitored and studied extensively by scholars. Early critics, for example, charged the international community with building institutions and developing policies that were far from a genuine democracy (see e.g. Chandler 2000). Overtime, studies pointing to the ‘accountability deficit’ of international administrators became commonplace (see e.g. Caplan 2005b) and so have criticisms that focused on a ‘dependency syndrome’ as a negative side effect of the international influence in the country (see e.g. Papić 2001a). In that context, among the most forceful critiques were waged against the ‘heavy hand’ policies of the Office of the High Representative under Paddy Ashdown, dubbed by pundits as a ‘European Raj’ (Knaus and Martin 2003). Interestingly, some works have attempted to draw lessons from the Bosnian experience for use in other Balkan cases (see e.g. Belloni 2007; Fagan 2010; Papić 2001b), while others considered Bosnia and Kosovo in parallel and within the broader discussion of scholarly and policy questions of state-building, international administrations or neo-trusteeship (see e.g. Caplan 2005a; Chesterman 2004; van Willigen 2013; Zaum 2007).

Still, the fact remains that the mounting problems that Kosovo still faces require solid analysis and creative policy thinking. The present edited volume is an attempt by a number of young or more experienced researchers to contribute with their scholarship to the task of understanding the complexity of contemporary policy making in Kosovo. The book is divided into five parts corresponding to different policy areas: i) state-building and the challenges to reform, ii) democracy, contention, and party politics, iii) the Brussels Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia: process and implications, iv) social relations and the challenge of reconciliation, and v) security considerations: domestic and regional perspectives.

Click here to read the entire volume.

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