Modernizing Kosovo’s land administration to accelerate private sector development

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Modernizing Kosovo’s land administration to accelerate private sector development Kosovo, Pristina city center. Photo: Jutta Benzenberg.

Pristina, Kosovo’s vibrant capital, is witnessing dramatic changes. New buildings are popping up in the commercial district, vacant lots are being bought out by developers, and spanking new apartment blocks are springing up across the city’s outskirts. However, behind this urban surge, there is much uncertainty—Kosovo is still in the process of clarifying land and property ownership, even though nearly 25 years have passed since the war of 1999, when virtually all land records of that time were relocated to Serbia.

Support from the World Bank’s DPF

Kosovo turned to the World Bank’s Development Policy Financing (DPF) to support land administration and properly address the many challenges—particularly around inheritance and land disputes—that made it difficult to formalize all properties. For example, in the absence of proper records, women were often prevented from claiming their inheritance rights, contributing to their low property ownership rates. Additionally, any property that was disputed in court was listed as unregistered. Consequently, much of Kosovo’s land was effectively frozen in states of informality.

All that is changing. The DPF has helped to introduce and accelerate the reforms that is addressing these issues. An important step was the implementation of a new Law on Cadastre, which provides guidance and protocol for cadastral reconstruction and addresses challenges related to inheritance and boundary disputes. As a result, the Kosovo Cadastral Agency (KCA) has made considerable progress reconstructing cadastral information and formalizing at least 300,000 ownership rights in Pristina and other important areas. The result is increased construction, with spillover effects on jobs and the overall economy.

This was expected. Establishing secure land tenure is a cornerstone of private sector development. Clarity in defining legal use and ownership rights is crucial to build investor confidence, improve citizens’ access to credit, and increase access to public services. Just to give one example of how the situation has improved, the new provisions of the law makes it possible for disputes around property ownership to be solved without the intervention of courts, significantly reducing the time citizens need to secure their property rights. Previously, there was no easy way to settle a dispute.

Overcoming Barriers

Normally, implementing institutional and regulatory reforms take time and are often marred by political, economic, and societal barriers. In Kosovo, three factors were crucial for the eventual success of the reforms:

  • Synergies between the reforms supported by the DPF and other World Bank Group projects were critical in building expertise and knowledge on the institutional reforms process. Here, the reforms supported through the DPF were built on the expertise developed under the World Bank’s Real Estate and Geospatial Infrastructure Project (REGIP), which aims to increase the quality and availability of land administration and geospatial data.

  • Public awareness campaigns have been crucial in informing citizens and businesses about the land services available to them, especially among vulnerable segments of the population.

  • Intensive consultations with a broad range of stakeholders helped arrive at a common understanding of how implementing efficient and transparent land administration systems and services to secure ownership and other rights is critical for private sector development and growth.

The reforms are paving the way for a more enabling environment for private sector development and growth. While clearer land ownership and property rights give businesses better access to credit and investment—with land serving as a collateral—the new legal framework also requires transparency of transactions that will further contribute toward a level playing field for participants in the real estate market. This is crucial in contributing to increased investor confidence.

Moving forward, improvements in digitalization, automation, skills development, and expertise related to cadastral information systems will be crucial to maximize the impact of the reforms. Kosovo faces many development challenges, but with continued support for land administration reforms, the country can unlock its full development potential and create a thriving and prosperous future for its private sector.

Caleb Travis Johnson

Land Administration Specialist

Blerta Qerimi

Senior Private and Financial Sector Specialist

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