The impact of YCS on Public Administration Reform in Kosovo, with a focus on members of non- majority communities

Dodona Gashi[1]


The aim of this research paper is to explain the impact of the Young Cell Scheme on the Public Administration (PAR) in Kosovo, focusing on of applicants/graduates belonging to non-majority communities. PAR has been one of the main challenges that the Republic of Kosovo has faced and a lot has been achieved on this area, especially on the strategic framework and inter-ministerial structures. The Young Cell Scheme (YCS) as a Postgraduate Scholarship Program for Kosovo has had a great impact in creating an effective, efficient and transparent public administration in Kosovo.

This paper will address the impact of the YCS on the public administration reform, and the correlation between youth, education and PAR. YCS has had a great role on to preparing young professionals that would positively impact a transparent a professional public administration. Another overall objective of the research is to come out with recommendations on increasing the number of applicants from non-majority communities that apply to the YCS and at the same time ensure their engagement after returning from their studies in state institutions either in the local or central level.

Moreover, the paper will address the main achievements in the Public Administration Reform, a general description of the YSC, the impact of the scheme on enhancing gender equality and inclusion of minorities in civil service, by including data on the number of beneficiaries. These data will comprise numbers on the members of non-majority communities that have benefited from the programme and that have complied with their contracts. Hence, a research related to the main reasons on non-employment of members of minority communities or their rejection to be employed will be included. As a conclusion, recommendations will be made on increasing the number of graduates, especially the ones coming from minority communities that will continue to stay in public administration even after their obligation has been completed.

Key words: Public Administration Reform, Kosovo, Young Cell Scheme, Education, Minority Rights.

1.    Preliminary remark: Public Administration Reform

For longer than a decade, Public Administration Reform (PAR) has been one of the main challenges that the Republic of Kosovo has faced. PAR, together with rule of law and economic governance is considered as one of the fundamental key pillars to the EU accession process. Considering that PAR is one of the main priorities and indispensable with the integration agenda, Kosovo institutions have taken various steps in order to achieve progress in this field.

The notion of a “European Administrative Space” was set out by SIGMA in 19993. It includes components such as reliability, predictability, accountability and transparency, as well as technical and managerial competence, organisational capacity, financial sustainability and citizen participation.[2] The principles for a Public Administration Reform derive from international standards and good practices of EU member states/OECD countries and are also mentioned in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Since 2014 they were designed by OECD/SIGMA in close cooperation with European Commission for countries that aim EU accession and to receive assistance through IPA funds. In order to achieve progress on the PAR, countries should ensure compliance with the following principles:[3]

·      Strategic Framework of Public Administration Reform;

·      Policy Development and Co-ordination;

·      Public Service and Human Resource Management;

·      Accountability;

·      Service Delivery;

·      Public Financial Management.

The implementation of the qualitative and quantitative indicators that measure the progress made over each principle is measured by a monitoring framework. Through this framework the indicators measure the maturity of relevant public administration components and analyses the progress of the country in applying the Principles.[4]

In order to achieve progress on this area, several steps were taken by the Kosovo institutions. A Special Group on PAR was created in June of 2013 as a joint body of institutions of the Republic of Kosovo and the European Commission.” The SGPAR encouraged the adoption of “a new Strategy on Public Administration Reform” in 2014 to ensure a more effective and comprehensive implementation of PAR.[5] Consequently, a Strategy on Modernization of Public Administration was adopted in 2015.

The Feasibility study for a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo in 2012 required that in order to implement the reforms of the public administration, Kosovo needed to ensure sustainable public administration reform, an efficient and professional public administration; and to increase the share of persons belonging to minorities in the public administration (SWD(2012) 339 final).[6] On the other hand, the findings from the 2016 Kosovo Progress report stated that “There is some level of preparation in the area of public administration reform, the continued politicization of the public administration remains a serious concern and the organization of the State administration is fragmented and does not ensure effective lines of accountability (SWD(2016) 363 final).[7]  Gender equality and involvement of minorities have also been part of the PAR agenda. Therefor concrete actions were required by the Government to achieve results on this area.

Continuously, actions and indicators that aimed to have an impact in PAR were prioritized in action plans of the Government, particularly those prepared by the MIE such as the National Plan on Adoption of Acquis, Action Plan on Progress report etc. Currently, a mid-term priority that set in the National Plan on Adoption of Acquis 2016 -2020 aims to increase the percentage of civil servants coming from non-majority groups in the administration, from 8.75% to above 10% as foreseen with the laws in force. 

Unfortunately, governmental structures and strategic paper were not sufficient in achieving concrete results. Capacity building of the civil servants and professionalism could ease the process, not only of PAR but of reforms required by process of European integration in general. The YCS directly impacted this process by providing professionals that not only had an extensive educational background on EU studies but also came with enthusiasm and brought a new culture of work within institutions.

Kosovo signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU on 27 October 2015. Under this Agreement, the Government undertakes the obligation to ensure a further development of a professional, efficient and accountable public administration in Kosovo. Article 120 of the Agreement states that the cooperation between EU and Kosovo should focus on institution building, including the development and implementation of a merit-based, transparent and impartial recruitment procedures at both central and local level, human resources management, and career development for the public service, continued training and the promotion of ethics within the public administration.[8]

SAA was the first comprehensive contract signed between the EU and Kosovo which confirmed the willingness of the both parties towards European integration. Its implementation will be measuring the readiness and seriousness of the country to comply with EU requirements and rules. Kosovo has continuously received assistance from EU to intensify its reforms in all areas. When it comes to public administration reform, projects that aimed increasing the professionalism of civil servants have been few. However, tackling higher education of youth in order to educate and train them to be part of the public administration was a particular task of the Young Cells Scheme project.

Investing in education has also been one of the priorities of the Kosovo Government. With around 40,000 to 50,000 students that enroll in public and private universities in Kosovo every year, achieving proper quality in education remains a challenge. Kosovo established five new Universities only in the last six years. As a result, all higher education institutions have turned into community educational institutions that mostly offer outdated and irrelevant theoretical studies to their students mostly because most of these institutions work without adequate planning, preparations and support.[9]

Law and economics remain to be the preferred degrees for university education in Kosovo while the unemployment rate on the same areas remains high. In the academic year 2015/2016, from the total number of 40,383 students enrolled at the University of Prishtina, 5,740 were enrolled at the Faculty of Law, 9,329 in Economics while only 1,269 in Engineering.[10] The number of active students in Higher Education in Kosovo has increased from about 40,000 in 2004 to 122,000 in 2015. Kosovo has 6,669 students per 100,000 inhabitants, which is nearly double the EU average. Participation of women in higher education has increased, and the female student population now stands at 50.2% of the total. In addition, Kosovo offers preferential treatment for enrolment in higher education for candidates coming from non-Albanian ethnic communities.[11]

Education and training has also a particularly important role within the SAA. Based on Article 107, Kosovo institutions should aim to raise the level of general education and vocational education and training as well as youth policy and youth work, as means to promote skills development, employability, social inclusion and economic development in Kosovo. Moreover, Kosovo Government and the EU should cooperate in order to ensure that access to all levels of education and training in Kosovo is free of discrimination on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.[12]

Kosovo participates in European mobility schemes like the Central European Exchange Program for University Students CEEPUS and Erasmus Plus, and also benefits from various forms of bilateral and multi-lateral support, but opportunities for mobility of staff and students remain limited.[13] Even that one of the main reasons for the low number of motilities is the low number of scholarships offered, other substantial reasons include the inadequate level of English language.

In order to comply with the obligations from the SAA on the area of education, further investment on higher education is needed. An increase in quality of studies and better opportunities for inclusion would increase the employability and skills development within the young generations.

Considering the abovementioned obligations of the State towards the EU, the YCS has had an influence on improving the quality of higher education in Kosovo and also the establishment of a transparent and merit-based public administration.

Even that when the YCS was designed, a possible SAA was seen as a far future for Kosovo, the aims and terms of reference of the project continue to be in light of agreement and support country policies towards European Integration. When observing the “before-after” situation of the staff working in public institutions, the level of improvement was remarkably high. Considering that most of the members of the staff working in public institutions in 2012 were professionals between 30-50 years old who in general lacked English language skills and their knowledge on EU reforms was quite low, beneficiaries of the YCS brought innovation within those institutions. The achieved proficiency in the English language and the acquaintance with EU institutions and policies are evaluated as a professional asset inside the public administration, irrespective of any other specific knowledge.[14]

2.   Young Cell Scheme

The Young Cell Scheme was launched in 2004 and up to now 272 grantees have benefited from the scheme. The beneficiaries of the YCS studied in high league universities in United Kingdom (London School of Economics, University College of London, Sussex University, King’s College,  University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, University of Sheffield), France (Sciences PO Paris, ISAE - Toulouse, EDHEC -Nice and SKEMA Business Schools), Belgium (the College of Europe in Bruges, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the European Business School in Brussels), Netherlands (Maastricht University, Utrecht University, Leiden University), Germany (the University of Hamburg, the University of Bremen), Italy (The Collegio Europeo di Parma), Portugal (Universidade Catolica Portuguesa), Hungary (the Central European University in Budapest), and many more still.

Out of the 272 students who already completed the programme, around 87% currently work for the Government of Kosovo at various levels and offices, in Line Ministries, independent authorities and even in the local level. Many of the graduates serve at the Ministry for European Integration. [15] Interviewees consider YCS generally relevant for the PAR and highlight positive results such as the presence of YCS alumni in several key positions across the main sectors of the PA (e.g. Minister, Secretary General, political advisors, Directors etc.).[16]

The aim of the programme was to assist in creating an efficient and transparent public administration in Kosovo and to support Kosovo institutions in meeting obligations that arise during the European Integration process. The students that completed the programme were equipped with knowledge and expertise in key fields such as law, economics, public administration, hard sciences and so on. The successful candidates after the completion of their studies were obliged by a contract to work within the public administration for a period of three consecutive years.[17]

According to the contract, financial liability for the full grant would be provided in cases the grantee would refuse to comply with his/her obligation to serve in Kosovo public administration after the completion of his/her studies. The same liability would apply if the grantee would not complete his/her studies abroad without a proper reason or justification. The relevant institution would take all the necessary legal measures to ensure that the grantees that refuse to reimburse the full amount of the grant would be prosecuted in accordance with the applicable laws in Kosovo.[18]

The programme is managed by the European Union Office in Kosovo and implemented by the British Council in Kosovo and aims to ensure a transparent and fair process of selection of candidates. The calls for application were published in mass media, web sites, local newspapers and aimed to each a wide range of students that had already completed their bachelor studies.

As a beneficiary of the project in 2010, I had seen the project advertised in a local printed newspaper, however nowadays the programme gets a lot of candidates especially through social platforms or the alumni network. Based on the expert study published in 2015, “the scheme was not very advertised” and the role of the University in advertising the scheme remained low. [19] Even based on the last Expert Study for the Young Cell Scheme conducted in 2016, “the word of mouth” remains the most effective way to be introduced with the YCS. Based on a survey, more than half of the participants of Round X learned about the project from other students or from a friend.[20]

YCS has its own web page where detailed information on interested candidates is provided on the procedures of application, selection and a wide range of information related to the project.

Even that the promotion of the principles of non-discrimination within the scheme is quite widespread and representatives of minorities were strongly encouraged to apply, the number of students coming from communities that have applied/been selected to the project is remarkably low.

The last round of the project was announced in December of 2015. After a widespread visibility campaign in the beginning of 2016 the project received 450 applications compared to 248 in 2012, while 436 were considered to be eligible. On the other hand, for the first time three students from communities were selected to continue post graduate studies in EU Universities, and this was clearly as a result of the high visibility of the project and the willingness of members of communities to benefit from it. [21]

Since its beginnings the scheme has aimed to function in line with principles of ensuring transparency, enhancing professional capacities and improving the accountability. The main objective of the scheme was to prepare young students for a professional career that would lead to a European path for Kosovo. Compared to the technical and theoretical studies that take place in universities within the country that don’t offer much space for research or originality, studying in high level European universities would offer the Kosovar youth a complete new perspective in their professionalism. Another great aspect of the programme that should not be left aside is the opportunity of young students to live abroad independently and gain experiences from different societal perspectives.

Based on the expert study published in 2015, YCS alumni working inside public administration institutions are perceived as young, energetic and motivate people that “brought a new culture of working, they are highly motivated to make changes inside the PA, and they are able to manage more than one work at the same time”; “they know the English language and they can help Kosovo, if nothing else they have brought the European mentality within the institution”.[22]

The same impression remains even nowadays. In the last expert study to be published in November 2017, the performance of civil servants with a YCS background has been assessed as professional, knowledgeable, good work culture, and professional attitude and behavior. Moreover, the impact they have on the PAR has been comprised on “contributing to the strengthening of professional development, the knowledge related to EU legislation, institutional framework, policies and principles and also the overall contribute to a EU spirit.[23]

In order to strengthen the connections between the alumni of the YCS and promote debate in Kosovo related to the European Integration process, the Alumni Association (the “European Young Cells Alumni) was created in March 2011. Up to date, the EYCA has conducted a number of activities that promote EU integration in different academic levels.  To sum up, EYCA has organized four editions of EU Summer School in University of Prishtina and one edition of the EU Winter School; a number of lectures provided by alumni members on the topic of EU Integration in Practice, to share their professional experience as Civil Servants with the students of Universum College; the translation of nine books on European Affairs into Albanian language and Audio-books in cooperation with Kosovo Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Further activities include purchase of 107 books on EU Law, Policy and Economics in cooperation with the University of Prishtina, Faculty of Law and the project Learning EU at School which provided lectures from alumni on EU principles and opportunities in secondary in secondary schools.

As it can be seen, the impact that YCS grantees continue to have is not only focused on their job descriptions within the institution they have been assigned, but it goes in different levels of society. Their passion on European integration issues reflects in extracurricular activities and aims to apprise their fellows within the country that did not have the opportunity to live or study abroad. Considering the lack of literature in Albanian language in this field, the input from the EYCA is considered as valuable for the education of the coming generations.

3.   Inclusion of Minorities in the Young Cell Scheme

From the last census of 2014 Kosovo has a a population of around 1.8 million inhabitants, 87% are ethnic Albanians, 8% Serbs, and the 5% of the population is compires of other communities, including Turkish, Bosniak, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, Croat and Montenegrin communities.[24] As it can be seen below, Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe with 53% of the population being under 25 years old.[25]

Source: Kosovo Statistical Association data from the last census of 2011.

Public education for members of minorities has been granted by the Constitution (Article 59) and the legislative framework in place protecting minority rights supports and stimulates their education in all levels in one of the official languages in Kosovo. [26] Recently, the Ministry for Education Science and Technology has drafted and approved an Administrative Instruction on application of affirmative measures and reserved seats for students coming from non-majority communities.[27] Even that reserved places have been foreseen for minorities in higher education, the number of the enrolled students remains low.

Based on the data provided by the MEST for the academic year 2016/2017, from 904 seats reserved for communities in five (5) main universities in Kosovo, only 274 have been filled. The following table synthesizes the number of members of communities enrolled in public universities.






























































Table 1: Number of students from communities registered in Public Universities in Kosovo during the academic year 2016/2017

While, the University of Mitrovica North, offers study programs in the Serbian language.[28]

In the academic year 2014/2015, the YCS project announced a call for Round IXa that was directed to members of the Serbian community. The outcome of the programme was not of the highest accomplishment considering that from 6 students that were selected 3 of them withdrew.

Even that the implementing partners of the project together with Kosovo institutions have continuously taken steps to increase the number of application/grantees coming from members of communities, the numbers still remain low. On the other hand, challenges do not end at the selection phase. The number of alumni of the project that have complied with their contract to work for three consecutive years for Kosovo institutions is very low. Even that the alumni association has been active since 2012, no beneficiary coming from communities has actively taken part within the activities of the NGO.

In order to increase the number of grantees coming from minorities, a positive discrimination clause was included in the application call in each round. Based on this clause, women, minorities and people with disabilities are particularly encouraged to apply. ‘Between equally qualified candidates (ie, two applicants with the same final score) the principle WAS that women, members of minorities and candidates with disabilities would be given priority in order to ensure a balanced outcome of the competition’[29]. However, only 4% of the YCS grantees were minorities.

The Constitution of Kosovo, Article 61 specifically covers the representation of communities in public institutions and publicly owned enterprises stating that “communities and their members shall be entitled to equitable representation of employment in public bodies and publicly owned enterprises...” In addition, the Kosovo Civil Service Law requires that a minimum of 10% of positions at central level are reserved for “persons belonging to communities that are not majority in Kosovo. From the data provided by the MPA in 2014 regarding the employment of minority communities in public administration, 8.75% of the total employees are members of minority communities. At the managerial level, minority communities occupy 5.26% of the total employee composition.

On the other hand, during Round X there was visible increase in the number of applications coming from minorities. On the final outcome of selection and application process, 4 students that were invited to sit in the exam were from minorities and in total out of 35 beneficiaries, 3 have been awarded with a grant.

Round number



Minorities                 Male/ Female

Round I



1 F

Round II




Round III




Round IV




Round IVA



1 F

Round V




Round VI




Round VII



1 F

Round VIII




Round IX



1 F

Round IXA



2 F, 1 M

Round X



3 F




9 F 2 M (11)

Table 2: Number of grants awarded from Round I to Round X

Even that the legislative framework in Kosovo ensures equal opportunities, it is not always properly implemented. Unfair representation of gender or ethnic groups remains a challenge within the public administration.  Even that the project is currently undergoing on the process of collecting accurate data on the number of beneficiaries that are working within the public administration, the focus on minorities should remain.

In general, grantees belong to the Serbian community. Round IXa of the scheme was directly aiming to grant scholarships to civil servants working within the public administration of the 4 municipalities of Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecani. Successful applicants would be offered the opportunity to study in a Master’s programme at Universities in Croatia, or if they demonstrated an adequate knowledge of another EU language in any other members state.  This call was launched in 2014 and from 8 available scholarships, as it can be seen in the table above, only 3 grantees were selected. Even that the number of beneficiaries was quite low, the impact of this call was noted on the years to come considering that in Round X, the biggest number of applicants coming from minorities was received.

4.   Conclusion

For the last ten rounds of implementation, the Young Cell Scheme has had a remarkable impact in increasing not only the professional capacities of the institutions where they serve, but also by bringing a new work culture, high motivation on making changes and a different work mentality. Moreover, it should be noted that members of the YCS alumni have managed to get promoted in key governmental positions such as General Secretary, Head of Departments, and Head of Agencies etc, so the impact have can continue to have in PAR is remarkable.

However the number of people who leave the administration after they finish their contractual obligation to work within the public administration remains high. When it comes to the challenges and points to be improved for the future, increase on the number of grantees from all minorities should be taken as a priority.

Based on the assessment for the implementation of the scheme, affirmative measures are foreseen for the next rounds to ensure that at least one grant will be awarded to members of the roma, ashkali and Egyptian community. Certainly this will require additional work to make sure that the grantees will be sufficiently prepared to attend English language post graduate studies.

The idea of the scheme to have a special round on North municipalities should definitively be applauded, however same opportunities should be offered to other minorities in Kosovo as well, especially when it comes to language barriers. In case any other minority fulfills the condition but his/her English language skills are below the requested levels, possibility to study in Serbo-croatian in Croatian Universities should also be considered as an option.

Further efforts should be made to improve the visibility campaign also among other minorities such as gorani, bosniaks, turkish and RAE in order to be able to find best and suitable candidates from these ethnic groups.

Considering the role that the European Young Cell Scheme Alumni has had in promoting the scheme and ensuring a comprehensive debate through the civil society, secondary education and Universities on European integration processes, the participation of an alumni coming from minorities is a must. Increased efforts should be undertaken to ensure their active participation within this organization. This would increase the visibility of the project among other communities and the confidence on the transparency and non-discriminatory values of the project. Moreover, considering the language barrier, serbo-croat speaking members could be of a great importance when it comes to academic projects such as book translation or lectures.

Lastly but not the least, the recommendations of the Berlin process should not be overlooked. Some of the objectives of this initiative include appointing skilful and competent officials to ensure advanced preparation and planning for projects. Moreover, it is emphasized that Kosovo should prioritize the implementation of the SAA and other EU related reforms since this will improve the importance of the country vis-à-vis EU and members of the Berlin Process.

With the Berlin Process and signing of the SAA new challenges will be expected. Reforms required by the previous processes should be part of a successful past and the new ones should be addressed with professionalism and transparency. The Berlin agenda will bring new challenges and a stronger, professional, fair and transparent public administration is needed in to achieve progress and fulfil EU requirements towards integration. At the end, it should not be forgotten that the definite aim of the reforms goes beyond European integration and it aims the well-being of Kosovo citizens.

[1] LLM graduate from Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Global School of Law and Young Cell Scheme beneficiary on round VII, academic year 2011/2012. Senior Officer for Human Rights and Protection of Minorities working in the Ministry for European Integration, Department for Political Criteria.

[2] The Principles of Public Administration, OECD/SIGMA 2014. In:

[3] The Principles of Public Administration - Overview, OECD/SIGMA 2014. In:

[4] Ibid.

[5]Kosovo Progress Report, October 1014. In:


[7] Kosovo Progress Report, October 2016. In :

[8] Stabilization and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo*(2 October 2015), Article 120. In:

[9] REXHAJ, X., PUPOVCI, D.. Access to higher education in Kosovo. Academia, North America, 5, jul. 2015.  In: Date accessed: 22 Oct. 2017.

[10] Education Statistics in Kosovo 2015/2016, July 2016. In:

[11] Kosovo Education Strategic Plan 2017-2021,  July 2016. In:

[12] Stabilization and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo*(2 October 2015), Article 107. In:

[13] Supra 9.

[14] Higher Education for Public Administration Reform in Kosovo. Final Expert Study, 2015. In:,

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.


[18] YCS terms of reference fq 4

[19] Supra 14.

[20] Young Cell Scheme Expert Study, November 2017

[21] Young Cell Scheme 2nd Round X Assessment and Round XI Proposals. December 2016.

[22] Supra 14.

[23] Supra 20.

[24] Kosovo Statistical Association data, 2014.

[25] Kosovo Statistical Association data from the last census of 2011.

[26] Law on Higher Education; Law on rights of communities.

[27] Administrative Instruction 09/2017 on application of the affirmative measures and reserved seats for registration of candidates from the non-majority communities in Higher Education Institutions.

[28] Supra 9



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