In Kosovo there are a number of normative acts that regulate the process of drafting policies and laws at the central level, while public involvement is an integral part of each of these documents. Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, namely, Article 41 – The right of access to public documents obliges all public institutions to inform citizens and all interested parties about their work and documents and Article 45 – Election and Participation Rights, encourages the participation of all citizens in public activities and the right to influence decision making of public bodies.
Moreover, Rules of Procedure of the Republic of Kosovo Government No. 09/2011, approved in 2011, provides a good basis for the involvement of citizens and civil society in the work of the Government. There are three separate articles as well as several other provisions that oblige the Government to involve citizens and other parties in its work. Article 32 obliges the proposing body to publish the content of the proposal and to request comments from the public, and in particular by the NGOs. This article also obliges the proposing body to provide sufficient information to the public and NGOs and to provide sufficient time to review the proposals of the Government and come up with concrete comments and recommendations. Furthermore, the results of these consultations should be reported at the Government meeting or the Ministerial Committees as part of the relevant Concept Paper or Explanatory Memorandum. Article 39 defines the obligation for public consultations to the proposing body, which is responsible for the drafting procedures of the initial project. Article 69 obliges the Government to cooperate with various external entities, such as associations, professional chambers and NGOs, through discussion of their opinions and initiatives, and through calling and inviting representatives of these entities to attend meetings of the working bodies of the Government.
Based on the Government’s Rules of Procedure, but also detailing the overall obligations, in April 2016, the Government of Kosovo approved the Regulation on Minimum Standards for Public Consultation, and the same entered into force on 1 January 2017. Its implementation is mandatory for all government bodies (Ministries, Office of the Prime Minister and Government Agencies), but does not include Municipalities and Assembly of Republic of Kosovo. Also, the regulation applies to all policy documents such as:
- Annual work plans for the forthcoming year
- Draft laws
- Concept papers
- Sub-legal acts (administrative instructions, regulations, etc.)
The drafting of each of the above mentioned documents requires full compliance with the minimum standards, and for any incompliance from the minimum standards point of view during the public consultation process, the same Regulation requires that the drafting process of the document shall not continue until the relevant standard is completed.
Depending on the intended audience, the Regulation suggests using two methods of consultation: public meetings and written consultations. Given the complexity of the act to be consulted, the shorter deadline for submitting comments is 15 working days from the day of sending the invitation, while for more complex acts can be given up to 60 calendar days for comment.
Public consultation starts at the stage of drafting the work plan for the following year, while continuing during the preparation and drafting of the relevant document. Each of these stages has its own minimum requirements.
When preparing the Annual work plan, the responsible institution is obliged, at least, to:
- Organize a meeting with stakeholders to present and discuss the key elements to be included in the plan;
- Publish the final version of the plan, including any changes occurring throughout the year.
While drafting the respective project proposal, the competent bodies should:
- Before starting drafting the project proposal, invite interested parties to discuss the key elements that are planned to be included in the project proposal.
- After drafting the initial draft and after the competent body has completed the stage of internal consultation with other public institutions, extensive written consultation is required.
Once comments from public have been received on the document being consulted, the relevant body must compile the final consultation report, which contains:
- Progress of process and summary of responses on the consultation issues;
- Comments sent by the public;
- Institution responses to comments and justifications for accepting or rejecting comments;
- Next steps expected to be undertaken related to the document being consulted.
Supervising the implementation of Minimum Standards in the Public Consultation process should ensure that each minimum standard is strictly respected. Depending on which institution is consulted and what is consulted, the units responsible for the progress of the consultation process are also different.
Within the Ministries, responsible for overseeing the consultation process are:
- Legal department for: draft laws, administrative instructions and regulations:
- Department for Policy Coordination and European Integration for concept documents and strategic documents.
Within the Office of the Prime Minister, responsible for overseeing the consultation process are:
- Legal office for draft laws, administrative instructions and regulations,
- Government Coordination Secretariat for concept documents,
- Strategic Planning Office for strategic documents.
Managers of these units are obliged at the time when they observe the non-implementation of the Minimum Standards to stop the process of drafting a document and to ensure that the relevant standards are properly met.