Kosovo and European Union held 2nd Stabilization and Association Agreement Sub-committee on Internal Market, Competition and Consumer and Health Protection
On Tuesday, 31st of January 2018, representatives from Kosovo and the European Commission met in Pristina to discuss developments over the past year in the areas of public procurement, intellectual property rights, rights of establishment and free movement of services, competition policy, movement of capital, financial services and company law, and consumer and health protection. The discussion was held in the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), which entered into force in April 2016. In all areas, the Commission and Kosovo agreed on the importance of implementing the relevant European Reform Agenda and Economic Reform Programme priorities as well as the recommendations from the Commission’s 2016 and 2017 Report on Kosovo.
As regards public procurement, the Commission welcomed positive developments on the further approximation with the EU acquis and the e-procurement platform presented by the Kosovo authorities.The Commission stressed the importance of improving transparency at all stages of public procurement, including the introduction of mandatory e-submission of tenders, especially those with higher value. Further professionalisation of public procurement, improve systematic monitoring of contract implementation and having a strong remedy system free from intimidations were also highlighted during the discussions.
On intellectual property rights (IPR), the Commission highlighted the need for the Government to address the capacity constraints at the Industrial Property Agency, including nominating a new Director. Kosovo again underlined its commitment to reach, within 5 years from the entry into force of the SAA, a level of protection and enforcement of IPR rights similar to that existing in the EU.
On rights of establishment and freedom to provide services the Commission welcomed the adoption of the Law on Services and encouraged Kosovo to continue with the full liberalisation of the postal market and further alignment with the law on regulated professions.
Further to competition, the Commission welcomed the measures to strengthen the Kosovo Competition Authority (KCA) and the publication of the report with recommendations on the state of play of monopolies in the market and stresses the need to further raise awareness on competition policy among relevant stakeholders, especially judges. With regard to state aid, both parties agreed on the need to step up measures in this area in order to be able to fulfill the inventory and alignment of State Aid schemes by the timetable of April 2019 foreseen in the SAA.
On the movement of capital, financial services and company law, the Kosovo authorities updated the Commission on developments over the past year and both agreed on the need to increase efforts to fight economic and financial crime. The Commission reiterated its call for an increased focus on the insurance sector to promote fair competition practices and a level playing field in this area, as well as for improved standards in accounting, auditing and financial reporting.
As regards consumer protection, the parties agreed on the need to reinforce the level of awareness and protection of consumer rights. In particular the Commission encouraged adequate involvement of consumer associations and other relevant stakeholders into the planned adaptation of the legislative framework.
Finally, on health, both agreed that it is important to address the health policies holistically with a need for increased cooperation and coordination across sectors. The air pollution problem that Pristina is facing is one such issue, where short-comings in other sectors have contributed to the problem. The Commission also stressed the importance of Kosovo establishing a sustainable, cost-effective and patient-centered health system, bringing it closer to internationally recognized quality and safety standards. Kosovo was also encouraged to continue further aligning its legislation with the EU acquis.
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement is the framework for the EU and the Kosovo administration to regularly discuss technical and policy issues in relation to the European agenda.
SA Committee and Sub-Committee meetings are co-chaired by the European Commission and Kosovo. Each meeting results in jointly agreed follow-up actions to be taken by the Kosovo authorities. The conclusions from the meetings are available on the website of the EU Office in Kosovo (https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/kosovo_en and https://www.mei-ks.net .There are seven areas covered through sectorial meetings of sub-Committees, on Justice, Freedom and Security; Innovation, Information Society, Social Policy, Education and Culture; Trade, Industry, Customs and Taxation; Internal Market, Competition, Consumer and Health Protection; Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Food Safety; Transport, Environment, Energy, Regional Development; Economic and Financial Issues, Statistics. Two Special Groups cover the reform of the public administration and normalisation of relations with Serbia.
Each sub-Committee meeting monitors and accompanies Kosovo's delivery on reforms and identifies how the EU can assist in this process. The meetings also provide direct input into the European Commission's annual reports.