Following the Republic of Kosovo’s 10th anniversary of independence on February 17, 2018, the House Democracy Partnership (HDP) celebrated the developmental progress of the Assembly of Kosovo at a reception on Capitol Hill. Since the Assembly’s inception in 2001, the Assembly has overcome a variety of challenges. In partnership with HDP and the international community, the Assembly has become a more resilient and forward-looking democratic institution and continues to make strides in strengthening the institution’s lawmaking, oversight and representative roles.
HDP is a bipartisan commission of the U.S. House of Representatives that works to strengthen the practices of partner legislatures around the world through peer-to-peer cooperation. HDP programs are facilitated by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The February 28 event honored the Assembly for its commitment to improving parliamentary practices and its openness to working with international organizations to strengthen Kosovo’s democratic institutions.
The event began with remarks from key leaders of the HDP program, HDP Chairman Representative Peter Roskam and HDP Ranking Member, Representative David Price, as well as NDI’s president Kenneth Wollack and Senator Mark Kirk, who represented IRI. Her Excellency Vlora Çitaku, Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo provided reflections on Kosovo’s 10 years of democracy and spoke to Kosovo’s long-term relationship with HDP. Additionally, Hon. Kadri Veseli provided a pretaped address, which was also featured in the program.
“Many of us have not walked the journey of Kosovars… The Assembly has demonstrated the intentionality of a country to take loss and redeem it, to take difficulty and transform it,” said HDP Chairman Rep. Peter Roskam opening the celebration held at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
“Democracy is always a work in progress, never a finished achievement… That is the spirit by which we operate and the spirit that Kosovo brings,” said HDP Ranking Member Rep. David Price.
As Kosovo enters its second decade as an independent republic, the Assembly confronts changing international and domestic challenges and priorities. At the country’s anniversary celebration in Pristina, President of the Assembly Kadri Veseli, pledged that “the second decade of independence will be focused on the economic well-being of Kosovo’s citizens.” The Assembly also continues to battle for greater international recognition of statehood, with 117 countries currently recognizing the Republic of Kosovo.
“America inspires us to dream of freedom, and to work hard to make better laws, to work harder to become a better version of ourselves,” said Her Excellency Vlora Çitaku, Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo during the celebration. “On behalf of the 2 million people of Kosovo, I want to say thank you. We would never have had the chance to celebrate without your support.”
Rest assured that [America’s] investment in Kosovo has not gone in vain. Kosovo is today free… with a parliament elected by fair and democratic elections.
-Hon. Kadri Veseli, Chairman of the Assembly of Kosovo
The Assembly, originally formed in 2001 as a provisional democratic self-government, has worked diligently to strengthen its own lawmaking, oversight and representative capacities. NDI, which has been present in Kosovo since shortly after the war ended in 1999, has supported the Assembly since its founding, working closely with the parliament as it has built strong internal research capacities, launched a robust legislative tracking system, and advanced its legislative drafting capacity. With NDI assistance and funding from USAID, it has also strengthened committee oversight of government budgets, nurtured more constructive, consultative interactions with Kosovo’s civil society, and improved its own transparency and openness.
NDI is deeply committed to HDP’s productive relationship with the Assembly of Kosovo. Since 2009, when HDP—then known as the House Democracy Assistance Commission—approved a legislative strengthening program with the Assembly of Kosovo, HDP has facilitated exchange programs and training seminars with the Assembly to strengthen lawmaking, constituency representation, government oversight and public transparency.
Over its nine years of working with the Assembly, HDP celebrates key moments of progress. In 2009, the Assembly Secretariat, inspired by HDP Staff Institutes for Parliamentary Research and Analysis, formed an innovative parliamentary research unit, which NDI has since worked closely with the parliament to expand. In 2012, the Speaker of the Assembly self-initiated a parliamentary delegation visit to Washington, underscoring the value that Kosovo’s Assembly places on its productive relationship with HDP. In 2013, the Assembly took a significant step forward in the HDP focus area of citizen representation and constituency relations, establishing a Civil Society Organization Liaison Office.
This led to further work with the Assembly to increase transparency and openness, including NDI assistance to the Forum for Parliamentary Transparency, which is composed of civil society, parliamentary staff, and members of parliament from across the political spectrum. The Forum has taken such actions as: creating and holding open parliament days that have brought more than 2,400 citizens to parliament, advancing live streaming of plenary sessions, and publicizing detailed data on Assembly finances and expenditures. The Assembly also launched an e-parliament and legislative tracking system this fall, with NDI’s support, enabling citizens to track the progress of legislation.
NDI looks forward to continued collaboration with Kosovo’s Assembly, an institution that has proved itself deeply committed to institutionalizing democratic processes and to leading the Republic of Kosovo forward into its second decade as an independent state.