The Draft Law for Prishtina, which was approved after its initial reading in the Kosovo Assembly in late November, foresees a better functioning capital. The content of this draft law generally manages to address problems which the Municipality of Prishtina has faced in the last two decades, such as the inability to establish new local enterprises, the lack of a distinct budget for Prishtina, the lack of proper institutional coordination within the Kosovo Police for issues within the capital, and so on.
However, the Law for Prishtina in itself will not be able to address the challenges of governing the Capital if a bigger budget is not allocated for it, if an increase in the number of employees, especially in healthcare, is not forthcoming, and if other laws are not changed as well; such as the Law for the Police, the Law for Public Enterprises, the Law for Local Government Funding etc.
The current version of the Draft Law for Prishtina gives the capital the right to establish local public enterprises and foresees the establishment of a unique sector for the capital within the Kosovo Police. Prishtina will also have the right to manage secondary healthcare institutions, in addition to primary ones, which means it can establish the Prishtina Hospital.
Furthermore, the draft law foresees an additional grant of 4 percent on top of the general grant for municipalities, meaning it will add 6 million euros to the annual budget. Prishtina will also have two deputy mayors, and the mayor’s office will have up to three advisers.
The part of the Draft Law for Prishtina which enables the capital to establish local public enterprises without consulting or receiving approval from the central level makes for a situation in which the municipality is more effective in managing its resources. “Prishtina Parking” is just one of the enterprises that is expected to be established in the capital with the aim of managing public spaces for parking vehicles.
In short, Prishtina now has the ability to conduct certain services that up until this point were conducted by private companies.
Many have criticized the speed and quality of the services offered by these companies. An example of this is the expansion and maintenance of the public lighting system. The municipality now has the opportunity to establish an enterprise that specifically serves this function. Another example is the establishment of an enterprise which would manage kindergartens in the capital, or an enterprise which would maintain roads.
The Draft Law for Prishtina also foresees that the capital should have the right to establish a hospital for the municipality, so as to offer secondary healthcare services, as well as primary services locally (primary services include dentistry, mammography, a family doctor, vaccinations, and laboratory services, whereas secondary services include maternity departments, surgery, accident and emergency units, orthopedics etc.).
Giving the municipality this legal right does not by itself solve the issue created by the absence of a hospital in the capital. A hospital in Prishtina would require 200-300 employees, and a considerable part of them would need to be specialist doctors. It would also require the opening of special departments and facilities.
To achieve this, a budget is needed — a big budget. For example, in Ferizaj, it is estimated that the initial construction of the hospital will cost 12 million euros, without including the cost of medical equipment and inventories. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance continues to forbid the hiring of new staff in every public institution as a result of budgetary implications.
If this trend is followed in the process of establishing a hospital in Prishtina, then it will never be completed. So the implementation of the Law for Prishtina does not depend completely on the Municipality of Prishtina, the latter will be dependent on a chain of ministries, as it will in many cases.
More delicate articles of the Draft Law for Prishtina are those that foresee the establishment of a directorate for the capital within the Kosovo Police. The current police hierarchy is comprised of the general directorate, the regional directorate and the police stations. Within police directorates there are sectors such as the forensics sector, the investigations sector, the specialized units sector, the communications unit sector, and in certain cases, the border units sector.
This means that Prishtina’s police must be in accordance with municipality competences — so a police unit must exist which deals with constructions that have no permit, illegal utilization of public spaces, illegal taxi cabs, theft and deterioration of public assets, and so on.
The municipality does not need to take on the burden of border checks, forensics and other issues that fall within the responsibilities of police and security institutions. Furthermore, the issue of command belongs to the police, not the municipality. The competences must form a “municipal police force” which coordinates actions with the municipal headship on the ground.
On the other hand, the Draft Law for Prishtina adequately adds an additional annual grant of 6 million euros to the capital’s budget. However, it specifies that this additional budget cannot be allocated for wages or services, but only for capital investments in sectors such as healthcare, education or infrastructure.
Now it is in the hands of Kosovo’s deputies as to whether Prishtina will have a law that is as substantial, clear and implementable as possible. The current version is good, but there is a need for further clarifications. We must consider practices of other capital cities and take them in the context of institutional, social, legal and budgetary circumstances.
Feature image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.