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For a sequenced European integration - In pursuit of the right pace for Kosovo’s integration into the European Union

On December 2013, the Kosovo Banking Association published the fourth edition of its publication "The Kosovo Banker". The Kosovo Banker is a publication of the Kosovo Bank Association which is published twice annually and aims to accurately inform the public regarding the banking industry in Kosovo.

Our Managing Partner Mr. Dastid Pallaska, was among the contributors in this publication. Namely, Dastid published the article named "For a sequenced European Integration" in the Experts Corner section.

The full article can be accessed at this link or in the following text.

For a sequenced European integration

In public discourse, when references are made to Kosovo as a non-member of the European Union and as a country with a developing economy, the negative sides of this statement are mentioned exclusively. Although the negative aspects of this situation must not be underestimated, it is surprising that almost no one among participants of public life in the country does not highlight the opportunities that this situation offers in terms of accelerated economic development - opportunities that Kosovo may use as competitive values vis-àvis countries that are ahead of Kosovo in the European integration process.

The superficial approach of Kosovo’s policymakers towards the European Union integration process becomes obvious by the fact that their efforts since 1999 towards this goal are limitedto the easiest and most irrelevant part of the integration process – in literal translation and copying of European Union laws. Subsequently, Kosovo today has a considerable number of highly sophisticated laws, copied from the European Union, which, for the bad luck of country’s citizens and businesses, not only have not made their lives easier, but produce counter-effects that exacerbate the country’s problems.

The European Union legislative body, better known as acquis communautaire, represents a legal body that regulates in a very detailed way many fields of life and economic activities. Due to this, acquis communautaire, based on its nature, represents a highly intrusive legal body for the economy. Furthermore, adequate implementation of this legislation in practice requires substantial funding. In fact, highly detailed legal regulation of economic activities, as is envisioned by acquis communautaire, works only when law implementation is accompanied with substantial funding, and when these laws are put into practice by competent and honourable officials. This implies that if a sophisticated and costly legal body, such as acquis communautaire, is implemented early and in an environment that lacks minimum capacity for implementation of such sophisticated laws, then citizens and businesses, as the supposed beneficiaries of these laws, will only face countereffects that the legislation produces. Such an irresponsible approach of policy-makers towardsEuropean Union integration contains the risk of antagonism of Kosovo society towards the European Union idea, since in the eyes of citizens and businesses in the country, this system poses highly intrusive legal burdens, which in the hands of incompetent officials are transformed into restrictions with no benefits.

Despite the fact that there is a broad consensus in our society regarding Kosovo’s integration into the European Union, the leaders of the country seem to have not properly understood the po litical goal of the membership and how this political, economic and legal system may be used to ensure an accelerated economic development and social wellbeing for Kosovo. Currently, the European Union is presented in the public discourse as a goal in and of itself and the society is mislead to believe that with achievement of formal membership most of the country’s problems will be resolved. In the economic aspect, a cursory look of the history of development of large companies in Europe shows that the majority of companies that have benefited the most from the European Union were established and had strengthened their base prior to entry into the legal environment governed by the acquis communautaire. In other words, these companies were established in a less regulated legal environment and were able to benefit from the fact that countries in which they operated had less legal limitations and burdens. By creating a competitive edge in such environments, these companies have flourished in the European Union, which offered them expansion of markets, free movement of people, goods and capital and legal security outside their home country.

Benefits that a country draws during the integration process and from membership to the European Union mainly depend on how and at what pace it has applied legal burdens and limitations dictated by the European Union and were these burdens and limitations balanced with benefits provided by integration into the European Union. Adequate pace, sequenced in this case, ensures not only meeting the objective of formal membership, but it guarantees that the membership will address and resolve problems of the society, and that after membership, a country will be able to benefit from advantages offered by the EuropeanUnion. Simply put, gains from the membership into the European Union do not depend from the speed of getting the formal membership into the community, but from the situation in which the country finds itself at the moment when it joins this political, economic and legal system.

The question that emerges is how could this sequenced integration into the European Union look like? Kosovo, same as all European Union member states, must take advantage of the fact that it is not part of the European Union, by providing local entrepreneurs with an environment for accelerated development will as little intrusion and legal burdens and limitations as possible. Furthermore, by identifying local competitive capacities in economy, Kosovo should consider opportunities to encourage an accelerated economic development, by providing young entrepreneurs with a friendly and conducive business environment. These actions are necessary to establish an economic basis that would enable local entrepreneurs to benefit from advantages that the European Union brings as a large market with freedom of movement of people, goods and capital. At the same time, Kosovo needs to prepare all the laws that are required by the European Union, but to ensure that entry into force of those laws will take place only right before formal membership. This sequenced approach towards the European integration would ensure that Kosovo creates space for establishment and development of competitive companies in the European Union, which not only would be able to face financially the legal regulation that is envisioned with acquis communautaire, but they would also enjoy the gains that this legal body brings for expansion of their markets in Europe. On the other hand, during this time, Kosovo with assistance of the European Union must train its public officials to implement and to put into practice gains and benefits that derive from the membership into the European family and from implementation of the acquis communautaire. Contrary to the current model, where untrained officials learn about European Union practices at the expense of citizens and businesses, with sequenced integration, the training would take place in a laboratory environment, where negative effects of deliberate and non-deliberate mistakes of officials would not produce negative effects for citizens and businesses.

In conclusion, it must be underscored that if Kosovo manages to enter into the European Union only due to its geographical position, then gains and benefits that derive from the membership would be minimal, since, to take just one example, roads constructed by the European Union would be one-way only, i.e. from Europe to Kosovo for European goods and services, and from Kosovo to Europe for Kosovo’s human capital. Consequently, Kosovo would remain a consumer society that in the European Union would have the relevance of a small peripheral market.

About the author: The author is a lawyer and a managing partner in legal firm “Pallaska & Associates L.L.C.” Views presented in this article are personal.
© The author reserves all copy rights, including publication of this article in other newspapers.
This article is translated as the original is written in Albanian.

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