USAID’s Property Rights Program (PRP) is a four-year activity that aims to address the property rights challenges and to develop a plan for the stabilization of the property rights regime in Kosovo. The program will work in partnership with the Government of Kosovo (GOK), selected municipalities and other relevant local and international stakeholders. USAID has allocated $8.5 million for the implementation of the Property Rights Program.
This Quarter saw PRP advance its initiatives significantly under all four Objectives. Under Objective 1, PRP has continued to support the timely development of legislation to implement the NSPR and assist the GoK in tracking its implementation. Under Objective 2, all three Courts of Merit (CoMs) have taken steps to institutionalize the Caseflow Management (CFM) reforms introduced by PRP, which have resulted in greater efficiency and improved court performance in adjudicating property rights cases. PRP has advanced its initiative with the Supreme Court to produce guidelines for lower courts to improve their substantive practice in property rights law; and its joint publication with USAID JSSP on civil practice.
OBJECTIVE 1: BETTER COORDINATION AND POLICY PRIORITIES
PARLIAMENT ADOPTS “INHERITANCE PACKAGE” OF LEGISLATION
The “Inheritance Package” consists of the Law on Notary, the Law on Inheritance, and the Law on Non-Contested Procedure. This legislation provides additional protections to enable women to exercise their right to inherit; and provides a mechanism to facilitate the conduct of delayed inheritance cases.
GOK SENDS TO PARLIAMENT AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW ON THE KOSOVO PROPERTY COMPARISON AND VERIFICATION AGENCY
PRP supported the development of amendments to the Law that give the KPCVA the authority to formalize informal property rights arising from non-formal transactions occurring before 1999. This is designed to create expedited procedures to help address widespread informality in Kosovo’s property sector.
DEVELOPMENT OF IMPLEMENTING LEGISLATION FOR NSPR CONTINUES APACE
The Draft Law on Public Property was sent to the GoK for approval; and the Draft Law on Construction Land and the Draft Law Amending the Law on the Sale of Apartments where a Tenure Right Exists were completed and awaiting only the completion of a budgetary impact analysis). In addition, the Concept Document for the Draft Law on the Transformation of Use Rights in Immovable Socially Owned Property has been completed and is ready for submission to the GoK for approval. Furthermore, PRP has prepared the first draft of the Draft Law on Property Rights of Foreign Citizens.
KPCVA SUPERVISORY BOARD ADOPTS STRATEGY FOR THE KPCVA
The Strategy identifies and prioritizes KPCVA’s activities for the next three years. PRP identified 47 activities that would support the implementation of KPCVA’s new mandate to compare and verify cadastral records that are expected to be returned from Serbia, and of its previous KPA mandate. In addition, as foreseen in the NSPR the KPCVA Strategy also sets a vision for the KPCVA to serve as an adjudicatory body for addressing large-scale informality.
MOU SIGNED WITH OFFICE OF OFFICIAL GAZETTE ON PROPERTY RIGHTS INFORMATION PORTAL
The MoU describes the activities that PRP and the Office of the Official Gazette (OOG) intend to develop to create the means for effective and timely notification of property rights proceedings through a single, easily accessible platform. The MoU was signed by the PRP and the OOG and witnessed by USAID.
RESEARCH IN SUPPORT OF AN OPEN CADASTRE
PRP produced a legal memorandum to demonstrate that there is a clear legal basis for the draft Law on Cadastre to provide for a fully open Cadastre, including the names of owners of parcels (as recommended in the NSPR); and to urge advocacy to overcome the apparent lack of political will to amend the Law on Cadastre accordingly. PRP sent the Memo to the Office of Ombudsperson and to USAID. The Ombudsperson promised to advocate for an open cadastre.
SUPPORT TO GOK INSTITUTIONS REPORTING RELATED TO THE NSPR
PRP supported the MoJ in reporting to the GoK on the actions taken to implement the NSPR and in addressing the Office of the Prime Minister’s (OPM’s) comments on the activities to address informality in the property sector under the Economic Reform Programme (2019-2021).
ACTIVE COLLABORATION WITH THE CIVIL CODE PROJECT
PRP reviewed the Draft Civil Code with a focus on inheritance of immovable property and provided extensive comments to the Working Group. PRP also participated in several meetings of the Working Group; one entire session was devoted to comments received from PRP. In its comments, PRP placed emphasis on the recommendations in the NSPR with respect to matters to be covered by the Civil Code. PRP is also a member of the Civil Code Project Phase 2 (CCP2) Steering Committee and participated in the CCP2 planning meeting.
PARTICIPATION IN MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE / GIZ WORKSHOP ON LAND CONSOLIDATION
The workshop focused on land consolidation practices in Germany and some countries of the region; the practical and legal challenges for implementing agricultural land consolidation projects in Kosovo, drawing on lessons learned from unfinished) land consolidation projects from the 1980s; and recommendations for amending the current legislation on land consolidation. PRP gave a presentation on the recommendations in Objective 5 of the NSPR, which concerns land consolidation.
MEETING WITH EUROPEAN UNION SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE (EUSR) ON NSPR IMPLEMENTATION AND EU ANNUAL COUNTRY REPORT
The EUSR meet with PRP to explore formulations that would accurately reflect the state of implementation of the NSPR. Concerns had been raised that the previous EU progress report did not accurately reflect the positive progress that had been made by the GoK to implement the NSPR. The EUSR intends to ensure an accurate assessment that fully reflects positive developments.
OBJECTIVE 2: IMPROVED COURT PROCEDURES RELATED TO PROPERTY CLAIMS
IMPROVED CFM PRACTICES CONTINUE TO PRODUCE POSITIVE RESULTS
Since mid-December 2016, judges in the PRP-supported Courts of Merit (CoM) have issued 11,181 decisions, which reflects a much higher rate of activity than before the caseflow management reforms were introduced.
PRP LEGAL ASSOCIATES HIRED BY COURTS FOR PERMANENT POSITIONS
Six of PRP’s nine Legal Associates (LAs) have been permanently hired, and two have been selected to be hired, by the CoM (and one of the two selected LAs has become a judge). This will help to ensure that the caseflow management reforms developed by PRP with the CoM’s will become institutionalized in those courts.
WORK ADVANCES ON MANUAL ON CIVIL PRACTICE
PRP and USAID JSSP are jointly producing a judicial resource that combines JSSP’s Bench Book with PRP’s Practical Guide on the Adjudication of Property Rights Cases in Kosovo, to provide guidance to judges adjudicating civil cases, with special emphasis on property rights cases, which have proved problematic for Kosovo courts. To date a combine text has been produced in Albanian and Serbian, and it is undergoing proofreading and layout.
SUPREME COURT GUIDELINES NEARING COMPLETION
This initiative will assist the Supreme Court to help lower courts deal more effectively and uniformly with issues in property rights disputes. The Guidelines will be organized around eight subject areas that PRP has identified as being most problematic for Kosovo courts. The Guidelines will use summaries of selected Supreme Court cases to illustrate the proper and improper application of the principles enunciated. The complete first draft is currently under review.
MOU SIGNED WITH KOSOVO ACADEMY OF JUSTICE
PRP and the KAJ executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) witnessed by USAID on the assistance that will be given to KJA in developing training modules on property rights topics and in providing training to judges and legal associates on those topics. The modules will cover Gender Sensitivity; European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Practice in Property Rights; and Property Rights Issues in Kosovo Judicial Practice. When completed, the modules will be integrated into the KAJ’s formal curriculum. Trainings on the ECHR have begun to be delivered.
JUDICIAL TRAINING COMMENCED ON ECHR PRACTICE
Three of the four regional training sessions were held this Quarter, in Gjilan/Gnjilane, Mitrovicë/ Mitrovica and Prizren. Participants expressed great satisfaction with the subject matter and the trainers’ instruction.
ECHR CASE SUMMARIES POSTED IN DIGITAL FORM BY THREE INSTITUTIONS
The Supreme Court, the Kosovo Academy of Justice, and the Kosovo Bar Association have posted the ECHR case summaries on their webpages:
OBJECTIVE 3: ENHANCED WOMEN’S RIGHTS TO USE PROPERTY IN PRACTICE
NEW PSA PRODUCED AND AIRED ON WOMEN’S PROPERTY RIGHTS
The PSA was aired regularly on TV and radio in October through December 2018 in Albanian and Serbian versions. PRP also conducted a billboard campaign to complement the new PSA.
PREPARATIONS BEGUN FOR TWO NEW ANIMATED PSA’S
PRP has been working with its sub-contractor, Pi Communications, to develop the concepts and style for two additional animated videos to promote positive changes in social attitudes and behavior. These PSA’s will address the importance of writing wills (facilitating the formalization of property rights), and women’s equal property rights.
FIELD WORK COMPLETED FOR THIRD AND FINAL (ENDLINE) NATIONAL SURVEY ON PROPERTY RIGHTS
The Endline Survey will make it possible to take stock of any changes in Kosovo citizens’ knowledge of property rights and in their attitudes and behavior related to women’s property rights during the years of PRP’s activities. PRP will produce its report on the Endline Survey in February 2019.
Preliminary findings indicate that positive trends are continuing with respect to women’s property rights and citizens’ knowledge of property rights in general. Pending verification of the data, it appears the number of respondents with negative attitudes to women’s property rights continues to fall; and the percentages of women who are inheriting property and filing inheritance claims in court continue to rise.
NEW PUBLIC INFORMATION BROCHURE ON WOMEN’S PROPERTY RIGHTS
The brochure provides guidance to citizens that reflects current developments in the law.
INTER-ETHNIC WORKSHOP REVEALS COMMON INTEREST ACROSS COMMUNITIES
PRP held its first inter-ethnic workshop for Albanian and Serbian women. It was very well attended, with around 30 participants. The workshop concluded with expressed recognition that women from both ethnic communities face similar problems with respect to property rights, owing primarily to social attitudes and behaviors. When asked by the Municipal Gender Officer if they would be interested in taking part in further activities in their communities in support of women’s equal rights, the participants affirmed that they would.
CONFERENCE WITH VITI/NA TEACHERS ON INSTRUCTION ON EQUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
PRP supported Viti/na Municipality in holding the conference, which was attended by over 70 teachers and school directors, on the topic, “The Role of Schools in Providing Education on Gender Equality and Property Rights.” Teachers acknowledged the importance of effective education for gender equality and property rights and provided examples of steps they have taken to improve instruction on these topics. Discussions also revealed continuing resistance among some teachers to the idea of women’s equal property rights and confirmed the need for continued advocacy in this area.
WORKSHOP IN LIPJAN/LJIPJANE WITH MGO AND WOMEN’S CAUCUS
PRP gave a presentation on new legislation affecting women’s property rights and facilitated discussion. The MGO and the Women’s Caucus began planning future joint activities in the municipality.
RADIO PROGRAM IN SUHAREKA/SUVA REKA
PRP and the Municipal Gender Officer (MGO) served as a panel to discuss women’s property rights issues on a local radio program aired on Radio Vala.
COLLABORATION WITH E4E SUB-GRANTEES
PRP has supported the E4E sub-grantee, “Gruaja Hyjnore,” with information products for use in its public outreach activities and took part in a live-streamed teleconference on the Inheritance Package.
OBJECTIVE 4: IMPROVED COMMUNICATION, ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF PROPERTY RIGHTS
MUNICIPALITIES POSTING ON THEIR WEB PAGES PRP’S BROCHURES ON PROPERTY REGISTRATION
By the end of this Quarter, 18 municipalities had done so. The brochures provide citizens with clear guidance on registering property rights arising in four different scenarios (from inheritance; purchase and sale; court judgment; and gifts).
SEVEN UPGRADED E-KIOSKS NEARLY READY TO COMMENCE OPERATIONS
The e-kiosks have been upgraded to issue property certificates. The necessary software has been developed and the e-kiosks have been tested successfully. The remaining step is to link the e-kiosks with KCA’s KCLIS information system (for which the KCA has already given approval), after which the e-kiosks will be made available for public use and monitored for performance for one month.
SUPPORTING MUNICIPALITIES IN LEASING MUNICIPAL LAND
During this Quarter PRP began working actively with the six municipalities approved by USAID for an initiative to support municipalities in leasing municipal land on a commercial basis. In each municipality, PRP has worked closely with the MCO’s, each of which has established a Municipal Working Group (MWG) that has identified properties for lease. The MWG’s will forward their recommendations to the Mayor’s cabinet and to Municipal Assembly for approval. The properties to be leased on a short-term will be offered at public auctions, and those to be offered on long-term leases will be advertised.