BIRN Kosovo and Internews Kosova’s Complaints Result in 18,000 Euros in Fines for Political Entities

On October 13th, 2017, Kosovo’s Elections Complaints and Appeals Panel (ECAP) allocated fines worth 18 thousand euros for four candidates and a political entity as a result of BIRN Kosovo and Internews Kosova’s written complaints for alleged violations of the Law on Elections during the local electoral campaign.

As a result of the panel’s decision, Alternativa’s candidate vying for the position of Gjakova Mayor, Mimoza Kusari-Lila, has received two fines adding up to 6,500 euros (one fine for 3,500 euros, and the other for 3,000); The Alliance for the Future of Kosovo’s, AAK, candidate, Lutfi Bilalli, vying for the position of Vushtrri Mayor, was fined with 3,500 euros; the mayoral candidate of Vetëvendosje, Shpend Ahmeti, running for Prishtina, received a fine of 2,000 euros; The Democratic League of Kosovo’s, LDK, mayoral candidate for Podujeva, Agim Veliu, was fined with the amount of 3,000 euros; and finally, AAK, as a political entity, received a fine of 3,000 euros. will report on each decision individually in the coming days.

In the following link, you may find some of the decisions in favor of BIRN and Internews Kosova’s complaints, during the Octotber 22nd electoral campaign:



A History of Problems in Kosovo’s Historic City

What are the responsibilities of Prizren’s future mayor?

There are 10 candidates vying for mayor of the second biggest municipality in Kosovo, Prizren, which has 178,112 residents.


Whoever wins the citizens’ trust on October 22 (or four weeks later, after run-off elections) will come into office with plenty of work and obligations. At the minimum, the community expect a Prizren Mayor who is committed to transparency and responsibility towards citizens.

In addition to issues around transparency, Prizren faces a pertinent illegal construction issue, threatening the Historic Zone.

The Prizren Municipality, commonly referred to as Kosovo’s ‘cultural heritage gem’ and which receives the tourists annually, lacks parking spaces.

Despite the lack of parking lots, Prizren is not lacking in illegal waste disposals. And despite the city having water resources, citizens continue to face problems with drinkable water.

Kosovo’s second biggest municipality does not even have public kindergartens.

In order to solve these problems, the municipality has a budget of 14.9 million euros annually to spend on capital investments.

During this election cycle, Prizrenis had the chance to attend the BIRN-produced local election debates DebatPernime (Real Debates) and hear real solutions for the municipality’s problems delivered by the mayoral candidates.

All potential mayoral candidates were present during the debate, except for Zafir Berisha from Nisma, and Sencar Karamuço from KDTP.

 ‘Modern’ constructions in the Historic Zone

For 18 years now, Prizren has had issues in maintaining the Historic Zone of the City of Prizren.

The phenomenon of illegal constructions, over-constructions, usurpations, have increased during the past years. And so has the number of indictments related to construction crimes.

Prizren’s Shatervan square area is officially named by Kosovo as the First Zone of the Historic Center of Prizren. However, the given area has now been transformed into the first business zone, flourishing with actors who disregard the law.

BIRN’s Life in Kosovo magazine discovered that many businesses that are located in the First Zone of the Historic Center in Prizren have legal issues.

There are businesses that have let their licenses expire from the municipal authorities, and also hotels that were built without the required permission. The powerful businessmen of the city have defeated the municipal authorities, who have shown no will to implement urban order in the Historic Zone.

Life in Kosovo has completed an extensive investigation on specific cases regarding illegal constructions within the first zone of the city, which is protected by the Law on the Historic Center of Prizren. The prosecution in Prizren had started investigations on these cases.

During 2017, the first zone of the historic center has continued to be degraded, even by the director of Inspection in Prizren, Bujar Hasani, who, in September this year, as a result of the investigation by Life in Kosovo, received an indictment from the prosecution on suspicions regarding usurpations and misuse of official duty.

Cultural heritage in the historic zone is constantly being destroyed. The Prizren Municipality’s failure to intervene on this issue even resulted in the death of a three-year-old girl who in 2016 was found in the rubble of an old house in the historic zone.

Sewage contaminates the Lumbardh and Dri Rivers

Prizren city and some villages in the zone of Zhupa, including some factories in the area, are contaminating the Lumbardh River with sewage. In fact, Prizren’s city center is contaminating waters right in front of the tourist zone, near Shatervan’s Bridge of Gur.

Water contamination from sewage is also an issue for the Dri River.

In the past, the Nashec was popular with tourists, and several Prizrenis built villas there. But nowadays, the village lacks tourism, and the residents suffer with poor living conditions due to the sewage that pollutes the Dri River. Residents complain that the contamination has damaged their properties.

Problems with the water supply

Although Prizren has sufficient water resources, the water supply remains one of the main problems for the municipality, and the citizens continue to face water cuts.

The low quality of the water supply is a result of the mismanagement of water. According to data from the South Hydro-region, there are huge technical and physical issues with the water network due to its old tubing.

Some of the city’s neighborhoods have difficulties with water supply due to their geographical locations. The neighborhoods suffering the most are Dardania, Kurilla, Bazhdarhane, and Tusuz, including the Hasi zone.

Illegal waste disposals

The waste disposal system, which was launched a few years ago in Zhur, envisaged for solid waste dumping purposes, has been transformed into a chaotic system of irresponsible actors dumping animal remains. This has created the spread of toxic odors and environmental pollution.

The waste disposal located along the Prizren-Dragash road infects residents and passersby with a horrible stench year-round.

According to a Life in Kosovo investigation, butchery owners dump their waste into the system, and the municipal inspectorate has taken no measures against this.

A lack of parking

Prizren is widely popular with tourists. The city’s lack of parking spaces is especially evident in the summer, when the diaspora comes home to visit and when locals and internationals flock to the city for the documentary film festival Dokufest.

Occasionally, the municipality opens up one side of the road for paid parking, but this has been a problematic solution.

The lack of parking lots is a constant problem for Prizren, and it prevents visitors and residents from walking freely on sidewalks, which are overburdened with cars.


Municipal taxes

Municipal taxes are one of the main sources that fill the municipality treasure, however, based on the auditor’s report and a report by the GAP institute, Prizren has failed to collect them.

The municipality, based on its planned own means, has managed to collect only 66 per cent of the municipal taxes . The municipality did not manage to finish the verification of 1/3 of the real estate as required by the law on taxing of real estate and its administrative instruction in power.

The municipality has collected only 34.99 per cent of the revenues from property taxes.

In 2016, the municipality planned to use 1,350,000 euros for the given properties on rent, while it managed to collect only 501,328 euros, or 37 per cent.

By the end of 2016, the total debt of the municipality reached 15,567,347 euros.

The main source of debt regards the collection of property taxes worth of 6,808,003 euros; next is the taxes collected from business activities, worth of 5,753,532 euros; then the revenues collected from the collection and management of waste, worth of 1,859,235 euros, followed by markets on rent worth of 455,577 euros, and then other tariffs worth of 691,000 euros.


These are a handful of the problems that Prizrenis expect smart solutions for over the next four-year mayoral mandate.

But let us not forget the need for equal gender representation: during the current mandate, the municipal governance had only two women directors, which is far from what the law on equal gender representation within institutions requires which states that 50 per cent of representation should include women.

Most of the candidates vying for mayor of the municipality of Prizren have promised during RealDebates that they will respect the required quota by law.

Ferizaj’s ‘Boxcars’ of Problems

What will Ferizaj’s next mayor face on the first day in office?

BIRN Kosovo’s mayoral debate series #DebatPernime (#RealDebates) has revealed many issues faced by the Municipality of Ferizaj, from waste management to preventing violent extremism.

Out of 45 villages in Ferizaj, 31 have problems with sewage.

Also, field research revealed that Ferizaj, one of Kosovo’s most populated cities, has only 130 public parking spaces. Furthermore, the municipality’s railroad tracks, where two people died this year, poses a danger to citizens.

BIRN investigations also revealed a construction and urban planning crisis in Ferizaj; the city has over 10 thousand illegal constructions.

Illegal constructions

In 2014, a decision was taken to initiate the amending and supplementing the regulatory plans, with an illegal basis, specifically focused on the examination of the construction coefficient for zones I and VIII. This was followed by consecutive legal, substantive and procedural violations, including more serious violations, such as the falsification of official documents.

Lawsuits regarding compensation for investors whose construction permits have been suspended due to the contestibility of the revision process

The Ferizaj Mayor’s failure to intervene in a timely manner and to hold those responsible for illegal constructions accountable, has risked Ferizaj hundreds of thousands of euros of its budget, due to the deposit of the lawsuits regarding compensation for investors. These investors’ construction permits have been suspended due to the contestability of the revision process.
Investigations by corruption reporting platform reveal that the

Municipality of Ferizaj did not considered the recommendations submitted by the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning and the Ministry of Local Government Administration, and the decision of the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, to reinstate the decision to initiate the revision of the regulatory plan for zones I and VIII, including the regulatory plans to be drafted, revised and harmonized in compliance with the given procedures, terminology and content envisaged by the Law on Spatial Planning.

Road safety

During 2017, three accidents occurred near the railroad tracks that run through the center of Ferizaj, two of which were fatal.

A investigation shows that there is a lack of road safety signals in the area where the fatalities occurred, and the responsibility for this has continuously been transferred to and from the municipality to the public enterprise INFRAKOS.

The municipality casts the responsibility to INFRAKOS, the public enterprise for railroad management, while the latter holds the municipality responsible for the lack of road safety signs and traffic barriers.

Mayor Muharrem Svarqa, during the election campaign of November 2013, promised to take measures to prevent accidents near the railroad. However, over the past four years, the problem has not been addressed.

Field research has also revealed that Ferizaj’s lack of parking lots within the city is one of the many issues residents take issue with.

Based on’s findings, the Municipality of Ferizaj ranks amongst the top for municipalties that lack sufficient parking spaces. Ferizaj has only two parking lots, with a total capacity of 130 cars.

Within the city, there are several plots of land that citizens have turned into private parking lots. The parking mayhem has given the city a bad image, especially because in some areas, sidewalks are used for parking

Water and sewage issues

Ferizaj has a major issue with drinking water availability, especially evident in dozens of the municipality’s villages. Many villages lack a water-supply network, and several have no water supply despite investments in this area.

Moreover, investigations reveal that the drinking water supply in the city remains a major issue due to water cuts, especially during summer.

More than 20 per cent of Ferizaj lacks drinking water. The specific zones currently without water supply are: Greme, Rakaj, Prelez i Jerlive, Prelez i Muhaxherëve, Papaz, Sazli, Bibaj, Sojevë, Zllatar, Dardani, Burnik, and Jezerc. In some of these villages, investments into the water supply began in 2011, but as of this year, the network has not been completed.


The municipality of Ferizaj lacks sewage collectors, and most of the waste is poured into rivers. In the Mirosalë village, sewage is poured close to some houses, private properties, and agricultural lands. There are no wastewater treatment plants, and none of the existing collectors clean the water in compliance with the given standards.

Education and health


Field research reveals that some of Ferizaj’s villages, such as Nerodime and Koshare, lack of health centers. Residents of the given villages, in order to receive basic health services, have to travel to the city. The distance between Koshare and Ferizaj is 7 kilometers, while Nerodime to Ferizaj is 4-6 kilometers.

Almost all schools operate in two shifts, except two other schools currently working in one.

Research has also highlights connections between employment and politics. Specifically, Arta Tahiri-Beqa, at the beginning of the mandate, was a Vetevendosje Assembly member who then joined LDK, and this year, she was appointed as the director of the lower secondary school “Ramadan Rexhepi” in the Sojevë village.


Ferizaj has 20 thousand residents more than Gjilan, however, its revenues remain the same.

During 2016, Ferizaj’s budget was only 3 million euros, while the government allocated a grant to this municipality of 21.3 million euros. Based on the gathered data, the municipality of Ferizaj itself may only provide 11 per cent of the budget, while 89 per cent is received as grants from Kosovo’s central government.

Ferizaj’s economy is known for its wood industry. Investigations show that in the municipality, taxes are used as bait for elections. Taxes were cut during the period when Mayor Aliu, from PDK, was in power. When Svarqa became the Mayor, taxes were once again restored to the previous amount. At the end of the mandate, Svarqa asked the Municipal Assembly to cut taxes, but the Assembly, supported by PDK, removed them completely.


Ferizaj has around 40 illegal waste deposits, while investigations shows that currently, 10 of them are located within the urban zones, which have no legal landfill. The investigation further shows that the municipality has not yet determined the location where the waste dump will be constructed.

Consequently, in villages and areas within the city, our researchers have identified waste dumping areas during their investigations. Such waste dumping occurs in the area called “The Eagle Circle”.

Preventing violent extremism

BIRN’s investigation shows that Ferizaj is amongst the municipalities dealing most with preventing violent extremism and indoctrination of young people by terrorist organizations.

Seven people from Ferizaj are in prison on charges of recruiting members of terrorist organizations or partaking in the war in Syria.

Investigations further reveal that the Municipality of Ferizaj, despite possessing several competences regarding the de-radicalization and integration of people previously involved in foreign conflicts, has done nothing in this regard.

The findings show that the municipality has failed to ensure that the centers for social work and health, the municipality’s psychologists, and the directorate of youth and sports are able to address issues faced by these individuals after their return from foreign conflict zones.

BIRN Kosovo’s Justice in Kosovo Show Wins “Best Anti-Corruption Story” Award

On December 8, the team behind the weekly BIRN Kosovo broadcast show “Justice in Kosovo”, was awarded the prize for “Best Anti-Corruption Story” by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP Kosovo) and the Association of Journalists of Kosovo. The award was given to the team of Justice in Kosovo who conducted a thorough investigation on an alleged bribery case in the Basic Court of Deçan by its judge. The story, named “Bribery in the Court”, was presented through two episodes in the weekly program “Justice in Kosovo”.

The investigation into the Basic Court of Deçan revealed that Judge Safete Tolaj was involved in bribery. Her son would make efforts to bribe indicted persons, whose cases were being judged by Tolaj., BIRN Kosovo’s online anti-corruption platform, received a report from a citizen named Berat Kelmendi, who asserted that he was experiencing longer than usual times to have his case be resolved by judge Tolaj. Tolaj’s son, Fisnik, had then approached Kelmendi to speed up his case in exchange for 20,000 euros. Kelmendi had accepted the offer by secretly recording all instances where they were negotiating money in order to have Judge Tolaj solve the case faster. When Judge Tolaj was interviewed by Justice in Kosovo team, she acted surprised and claimed she was not aware of her son’s actions. However, she and her son were arrested the night before the second episode of Justice in Kosovo was broadcast. Several months after, on October 11, the Department for Heavy Crimes of the Basic Prosecutor’s Office in Peja issued an indictment against judge Tolaj under the charge of abuse of official duty.

Illustrating cases like these with evidence and their impact has resulted in strengthening the cooperation between and the State Basic Prosecution, as well as the Kosovo Police. Justice in Kosovo and other BIRN Kosovo products will continue to pursue and investigate cases to uncover affairs of corruption and ensure those responsible are held accountable before legal institutions.