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.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS FOR THE REPORTING PERIOD AND KEY ACHIEVEMENTS
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 National Strategy on Property Rights (NSPR) Under Objective 2, the Caseflow Management (CFM) reforms introduced by PRP in its partner courts have continued to register demonstrable improvements in the courts’ efficiency and effectiveness in adjudicating property rights cases; and Kosovo courts have launched hiring procedures for legal associates in response. Under Objective 3, PRP continued its public outreach on women’s equal property rights with a range of activities, with an emphasis on reaching children and youth. Under Objective 4, PRP has moved forward a number of initiatives that are designed to improve municipal governments’ services to their citizens.
OBJECTIVE 1: BETTER COORDINATION AND POLICY PRIORITIES
PRP supported Government of Kosovo (GoK) stakeholders to develop draft legislation foreseen under the National Strategy on Property Rights (NSPR) to strengthen the property rights legal framework including: the Law on Public Property; the Law on Construction Land; the Law on Sale of the Apartments in which a Tenure Right Exists; the draft Law on Cadastre; the Draft Law on Allocation for the Use and Exchange of Immovable Property of the Municipality; the Concept Document on the Expropriation of Immovable Property; and an Administrative Instruction on Construction Permitting. Additionally, the “Inheritance Package” of legislation developed with PRP support to create more efficient inheritance procedures and safeguard the rights of women to inherit property has been reviewed by the legislations’ working group and it is anticipated the next iteration of the legislation will be produced in the next quarter.
PRP delivers its legislative support through coordinated efforts with the European Union (EU) Civil Code Project 2 (CCP2) to assist the GoK ensure consistency between property rights legislation supported by both projects. PRP also assists the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to coordinate its property reform activities with other GoK institutions and assists the MoJ to report on its progress to implement property rights reforms to help the GoK meet its obligations under the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU; to support economic development as foreseen in the GoK’s National Development Strategy (NDS); and to protect the property rights of women as part of the GoK’s Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group on Human Rights.
PRP assisted the Kosovo Property Comparison and Verification Agency (KPCVA) to finalize its draft three-year Strategy and related Action Plan. The Strategy identifies and prioritizes 54 KPCVA activities for the next three years, including the implementation of KPCVA’s new mandate to compare and verify cadastral records upon their return from Serbia; and, as foreseen in the NSPR and the GoK’s Concept Document to amend the KPCVA Law, proposes that the KPCVA serve as an adjudicatory body for addressing large-scale informality.
OBJECTIVE 2: IMPROVED COURT PROCEDURES RELATED TO PROPERTY CLAIMS
PRP’s caseflow management (CFM) assistance to the three Courts of Merit (CoM) has continued to achieve efficiency and help address property rights case backlog. Thus far, a total of 9,696 decisions had been issued with the assistance of PRP’s Legal Assistants (LAs) since mid-December 2016. The increased number of decisions promoted greater efficiencies in the courts that have allowed judges to focus efforts on resolving backlogged cases. In the short-term, the focus on backlogged cases has served to increase the average number of days it takes the court to dispose of a case because the
courts’ focus is on the oldest cases. Once these cases are disposed, the average time to disposition should fall significantly. Delivery of CFM assistance through LAs is proving to be a sustainable approach to improving court performance. The Pejë/Peć Basic Court initiated the process to recruit and permanently hire LAs. The Court informed PRP that its two LAs received the highest scores on the competency exam and will be hired in early July 2018.
PRP has collaborated closely with the KPCVA to amend the law establishing the agency and expand its mandate to resolve uncontested property rights requests through expedited, administrative procedures. Adoption of the legislation will help remove uncontested claims from the courts’ dockets, thereby further reducing the backlog of property rights cases. The draft legislation was recently published for public consultation and feedback.
PRP secured agreement with the Supreme Court to collaborate on an initiative under which the Supreme Court will produce guidelines to help achieve consistent judicial practice in the area of property rights. PRP and the Court have agreed on the methodology for developing the guidelines, which begins with the assessment of the approximately 900 decisions the Court has issued on points of law pertaining to property rights.
PRP also secured an agreement with the Kosovo Judicial Academy (KJA) to develop training modules to strengthen judicial capacity and reinforce consistent judicial practice to resolve property disputes. PRP has submitted concept notes for each training module, which are being reviewed by the KJA.
PRP continued to effectively coordinate with USAID’s Justice System Strengthening Project (JSSP). PRP translated its Practical Guide for improving CFM efficiency and shared it with JSSP’s sub- contractor who provided a memorandum describing recommendations for incorporating the
Practical Guide into JSSP’s Bench Book. PRP will continue discussions on the most effective way to produce a joint product to help further institute CFM reforms.
OBJECTIVE 3: ENHANCED WOMEN’S RIGHTS TO USE PROPERTY IN PRACTICE
PRP and the Mitrovica Municipal Gender Officer (MGO) organized a training on gender equality for the newly established Women’s Caucus and Committee on Gender Equality in Mitrovica. The training consisted of a session led by the MGO informing participants on Kosovo’s policies on gender equality and their implications at the municipal level; and PRP’s analysis on issues preventing women from exercising their property rights freely and equally in Kosovo. Additional information and outreach events included a PRP sponsored lecture at the Ukshin Hoti University in Prizren on Constitutional Rights, with emphasis on the provisions on equality before the law and protection of property, and a presentation by PRP on current issues in women’s property rights; and a joint PRP/MGO presentation for high school students in Suharekë/Suva Reka. PRP will assist the MGO to implement the MGO’s activity plan to raise youth awareness on equal rights to property inheritance. PRP also supported the visit of a female judge with Dragash/Dragaš elementary school children to discuss the important questions around the feeling that parents and families often do not treat each of their children equally in matters of property inheritance.
PRP continues its tradition in participating in USAID Engagement for Equity (E4E) new grantee orientations, including its most recent one. The session focused on project implementation rules and procedures. And PRP used the opportunity to inform the new grantees about its work and recommended opportunities for future collaboration with them. PRP will continue to monitor grantee activities to ensure consistency of (and avoid duplication with) USAID technical direction in the property rights space with the E4E implementing partner, ATRC.
PRP and ATRC facilitated a meeting between E4E grantee “Gruaja Hyjnore” from Gjilan/Gnjilane, and Ms. Ana Luisa Pinto, the USAID Desk Officer, Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, to acquaint Ms. Pinto with PRP’s long history of successful grassroots activities to raise awareness and understanding of women’s equal property rights in Kosovo.
PRP concluded four of its five planned regional workshops designed to focus attention and foster constructive discussion on specific challenges and problematic issues constraining Municipal Cadastral Offices (MCOs) from efficiently delivering service to citizens. The results from questionnaires distributed at the workshops and the lively discussions at the workshops are bringing to light a rich panoply of practice issues that need to be addressed in order to improve MCOs’ service delivery.
PRP assisted the Viti/Vitina Municipality in conducting a visibility event to unveil its new e-kiosk constructed and installed with PRP assistance. The e-kiosk provides citizens the ability to obtain copies of MCO certificates evidencing their property rights, and property tax documents, in addition to civil status documents. The event took place in Pozhoran, where the e-kiosk has been placed to provide easy access to a number of other population centers. Deputy USAID Mission Director Lisa Magno spoke at the event, which was also attended by Ms. Ana Luisa Pinto, USAID’s Desk Officer for Kosovo in Washington, DC. Viti/Vitina municipal authorities expressed their appreciation for USAID’s support and report that citizens are using the e-kiosk very frequently. PRP has issued a request for proposals to upgrade an additional six existing e-kiosks in Pristina, Pejë/Peć, Vushtrri/Vučitrn and Gračanica/Gracanicë municipalities. This will be another step to improve citizens’ ability to obtain official documents and facilitate property registration.
PRP produced a new public information brochure for citizens “How to Register Property Received as a Gift” in the Albanian, Serbian and English languages. The brochure addresses an increasingly common property transaction where immovable property is gifted within families to take advantage of lower registration fees for such transactions.
PRP continued its support to Štrpce/Shtërpcë MCO to register its backlog of around 5,000 unregistered property transactions. To date, over 3,500 cadastral files have been scanned, of which approximately 2,200 have been entered into the Kosovo Cadastral Land Information System.