Kosovo Nears the End of a Challenged Census Process

Kosovo’s second population census since the war is facing significant challenges such as mass resignation of registrars, a lack of informative campaigns , and boycotts by residents of Serbian-majority municipalities. Kosovo is also attempting to register its diaspora, including those not born in the country.

Kosovo’s Agency of Statistics said on Monday that over 1.4 million citizens have been registered so far as the data-collection process enters its final week.

Kosovo’s second population census since the 1998-99 war has faced challenges from the beginning, as over 1,700 trained enumerators from the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, ASK, resigned, the agency’s director told Kallxo Përnime TV programme.

“Out of the initial 4,300,  around 1,700-1,800 were not willing to continue, stating they cannot work for 700 euros,” Avni Kastrati, the ASK director, told Kallxo Përnime programme on May 3, 2024.

Penalties for non-participation in the population census are estimated to be between 200 to 2,000 euro fines depending on the reason for non participation. 

Bekim Dobra, a member of the municipal commission for population registration in Drenas municipality, criticised the Government for the census’ insufficient informational campaign.

“Compared to 2011 (when Kosovo held its first population census), we now have more television channels, yet we do not see enough advertisements calling for registration,” said Dobra.

In contrast, Kastrati, from ASK, emphasised that the campaign was mostly focused on social media considering that the audience there is larger.

“We have spent around 4% of the budget on awareness campaigns; advertisements appear on television three times a day,” Kastrati declared.

“In social media, through written articles, conferences, debates. We have tried our best; around 400 thousand euros were spent on the campaign,” he added.

Besnik Osmani, deputy mayor of Fushë Kosovë, declared that “citizens should register where they live and not where they come from, as this directly affects the allocated budget for the municipality”.

“We have surpassed the number of registered citizens in 2011; from 34 thousand, until now we have over 50 thousand. There are also calls from families wanting to register in the municipalities they come from even if they have been living in Fushë Kosovë for 10 years,” Osmani stated on May 3.

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The census is also facing a boycott by the Kosovo Serbs, mainly in the four Serb majority municipalities in the north of the country. Days before the start of this process, the Belgrade backed Kosovo Serb political representative party, Srpska Lista, announced they would boycott participation in the census. 

According to officials, the process in the six other Serb majority municipalities in the south of the country, is going smoothly. 

“The Serbian community has over 15 thousand currently registered; in the southern part, we don’t have any challenges,” Kastrati emphasised, compared to hundreds in the north, mainly in Leposavic and North Mitrovica.

“Because of ongoing pressure, we have replaced the enumerators,” he claimed.

The population census lasts until May 17.

Diaspora Registration

Kosovo is also conducting its first-ever registration of the large diaspora, estimated at around half a million people, via an online procedure, as well as registering properties damaged during the war. The disaspora registration is vountary.

Liza Gashi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, declared that “we have created a state platform, E-Diaspora, in partnership with the Kosovo Statistical Agency, available in three languages. Any person of Kosovar origin can register, including children of diaspora members born outside the country, regardless of their Kosovo citizenship”.

“During the summer season, the population in some municipalities triples, which municipalities need to consider for their plans. The digital  form for diaspora does not require ethnicity or religion, only citizenship; we need to know how many Kosovo citizens are outside the country,” she added, explaining they will register with the municipality they come from.

Kastrati, head of the Statistical Agency said that “the online registration of the diaspora aims to make it easier for all diaspora members since they cannot come here for registration”.

“Citizens with Kosovo citizenship have some sort of obligation (to register), but for those who do not have Kosovo citizenship, we are talking about second and third generations, if they feel like diaspora, it’s a very simple procedure, around 7-8 minutes for one person to register,”  Kastrati added.

The head of the Statistical Agency also detailed the documents required for citizens registering as members of the diaspora.

“The system requires an identification document, which can be the personal number of that country. Then we need five to six months to analyse the data for accuracy”.

He added that it is illegal for a citizen in the diaspora to register as a resident in Kosovo.

“If you live outside Kosovo for more than 6 months, this is illegal,” he added.

Source @Prishtina Insight: Read more : Kosovo Kosovo News