Fifteen years – it might be the age of a teenager without many cares and problems. But 15 is also the age of Europe’s youngest country – Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. What are her worries and problems?
Kosovo still awaits recognition as a sovereign state by Serbia, Russia, Spain, Greece and other countries. Only then could it apply to join the United Nations, the European Union or NATO.
Chief Judge John Tunheim, who is head of the federal District Court in Minnesota, worked as principal outside adviser to the process that developed the Kosovo Constitution.
“Most of the people I’ve worked with in Serbia and in Kosovo say: ‘Hey, that’s too long in the past, no one’s going back, let’s stop fighting over these issues, let’s get it over with’ ,” says Tunheim. “I think democracy in Kosovo is working well. I’m anxious for the next generation of leaders to take over, because they’re not veterans of the war. They are people who say, ‘We know how to do it now. We’ve worked closely with Europe and worked closely with the United States. We know what democracy and democratic institutions are all about, and that’s what we want to build.’
“So part of what I do is to try to encourage, you know, bright young people to stay in Kosovo, don’t go make money in New York or somewhere else, stay there, because they’re really great leaders. I think they will replace this war generation eventually who is still in power,” he says.
Tunheim works closely with the Constitutional Court in Kosovo.
“I think that is an example of a court that is really, really good right now,” he says. “And they’re not afraid to stand up to the government if it’s doing something wrong, and that’s a good example of a democratic institution in a place that never had something like that before and they’re doing it well.” says Tunheim.
The judge says that the disputed border areas between Serbia and Kosovo will continue to be a problem.
Tunheim was asked: Serbia is an ally of Russia, which invaded Ukraine. Is he worried about a repeat scenario, where Serbia might attack Kosovo?
“But you know the United States and Europe has a large presence there and I think we have Minnesota National Guard members who are in Kosovo as part of that group. I think that there is enough protection there that this is not something that Serbia and Russia would ever do,” he says.
Is democracy improving in Kosovo? The analysis of Freedom House – a non-partisan voice think tank dedicated to supporting democracy – says “yes”. Its National Democratic Governance rating improved from 2.50 to 3.00 thanks to the “stabilization of Kosovo’s leadership after snap parliamentary and presidential elections, the conduct of which showcased growing political maturity.” Its Judicial Framework and Independence rating improved from 2.50 to 2.75 because of what Freedom House called “renewed efforts to reform the judiciary and operational improvements across the justice sector.” And those ratings pulled up Kosovo’s Democracy Score from 3.14 to 3.25.