Kosovo’s legal system has been re-built since 1999. While other countries in the region have to undergo the difficult and complicated procedure of making more than 80,000 laws compatible with European Union regulations, Kosovo’s legislation is to a large extent already EU-compatible.
On 10 June 1999 the United Nations Security Council passed its resolution number 1244, establishing the United Nations Interim Administration Mission for Kosovo (UNMIK).
The legislation in force includes:
a) Laws passed by the Kosovo Assembly enacted on 15 June 2008 and thereafter;
b) Regulations enacted by the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) between 10 June 1999 and 14 June 2008;
c) Laws dated prior to 22 March 1989, enacted before the abolishment of Kosovo`s autonomy within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; and
d) Laws dated between 22 March 1989 and 10 June 1999, enacted after the abolishment of Kosovo`s autonomy, provided that they are not discriminatory and are required to fill a legal gap.
On 17 February 2008 Kosovo declared its independence, becoming the latest state to emerge following the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The declaration of independence established Kosovo as a democratic, secular and multi-ethnic republic promoting the rights of all communities in Kosovo. In April 2008 the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo adopted the country’s constitution that has entered into force in June 2008.
Law on Foreign Investment
In order to put in place certain legal guarantees that are necessary to encourage foreign investment, in April 2006 the Government of Kosovo promulgated a Law on Foreign Investment (UNMIK Regulation No. 2006/28). According to this regulation a foreign investor, defined as a physical person who is not a habitual resident of Kosovo or a business or other organization, entity or association established under a jurisdiction other than Kosovo, is to be governed by the principle of national treatment, meaning that foreign enterprises will be treated no less favourably than similar domestic enterprises. In particular the right vested to a foreign investor are:
- Non-discriminatory treatment
- Constant protection and security
- Compensation in case of nationalization, expropriation, including payment of interest;
- Compensation in case of violation of applicable law and international law attributable to Kosovo
- Freely transferable and otherwise in an unrestricted manner used income
- Protection against retroactive application of laws
Legal Forms of Enterprises
Similar to common practices in EU countries, only certain types of business can be registered in Kosovo. According to the Law on Business Organisation (Law Nr. 2007/02-L-123) these types are: a single person enterprise, a general partnership, a limited liability company, a limited partnership and a joint stock company. The characteristics of each type are listed in the table below.
In accordance with the clauses of the Foreign Investment Law, foreign companies are permitted to engage in any business activity open to domestic business. Additionally, there is no restriction regarding the share of capital that foreign entities are allowed to hold. Therefore, foreign entities may establish subsidiary enterprises and branches in the same manner and to the same extent as similar domestic business organizations.
Apart from establishing a new company, foreign investors also have the right to establish a representative office in Kosovo. However, a representative office is not considered to be a legal entity and may only engage in market research, promotional and other marketing activities. It cannot engage in commercial activities or conclude contracts.
Land acquisition and related matters
Land in Kosovo is categorised as agricultural and construction land.
Public construction land can be acquired by the private sector only, by the decision of the municipality and/or Ministry of Environment, or privatisation procedures. In contrast, construction land other than public or social can be acquired from private individuals.
Registering property in Kosovo is both quick and simple. Due to efficient property registers and cadastral systems in Kosovo, the average procedures needed to register a property and the total duration are quite below the regional average.
A construction licence issued by the Municipality is always required for construction purposes.
Information on the particular Land and/or existing pledges can be obtained from the Municipalities where the property is registered in the municipal register. For details visit http://www. komunat-ks.net
According to the present regulations and laws, there is also the possibility to lease land for commercial purposes for a term of 10 years with the possibility of further extension.
The law on gender equality establishes equal gender treatment in Kosovo, which means the elimination of all direct and indirect forms of gender discrimination in economic, financial, employment and social welfare legislation. Public and private sector undertakings and legislative and executive institutions are obliged to provide equal rights and opportunities for females and males.
Legal procedures concerning the enforcement of contracts are regulated by the Law on Contested Procedure (Civil Procedure Law) and the Law on Execution. In general, the municipal courts have jurisdiction to enforce contracts, with the exception of matters falling within the jurisdiction of the Commercial Court, which is responsible for enforcement.
With 16 procedures required to enforce a contract and a total duration of enforcement at 153 days for this purpose, the Kosovo judiciary is one of the most efficient in the region and can be compared to others in Europe.
Patent related matters in Kosovo are governed by the Patent Law (Regulation No.2004/49). According to this law, an invention shall be patentable if it is new, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable. Patentable inventions are protected by patents in accordance with the provisions of the above mentioned Law. A patent right is granted for the duration of 20 years.
The application for a patent is to be submitted at the Patent Office and shall contain:
a. a request for the grant of a patent,
b. a description of the invention,
c. one or more claims,
d. any drawings referred to in the description or the claims,
e. an abstract of the invention..
The Law on Trademarks (Law Nr. 2006/02-L-54) provides the protection of trademarks and commercial designations in accordance with the requirements of international conventions and the law and practice of the EU and its member states.
Any signs, particularly words, including personal names, designs, letters, numerals, audio marks, three-dimensional configurations, including the shape of goods or their wrapping or other packaging, including colours, or combinations of colours, that are capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings may be protected as trademarks in Kosovo.
Trademarks are to be registered at the Industrial Property office. The proprietor of a registered trademark will after registration have exclusive rights in relation to the goods or services covered by the registration. In particular these rights are:
a. to use the trademark;
b. to authorize another to use the trademark;
c. to consent to the use of the trademark; or
d. to obtain judicial remedy for a violation of the trademark
Industrial Design can be protected in Kosovo under the clauses of the Law on Industrial Design (Law Nr.. 2005/02-L-45). Industrial design is protected by the Law up to the point that it is still an innovation, and has a specific character. The design of a product is considered to be an innovation if not identical to a design previously available to the public, and that the design has a specific character if the consumers’ impression differs from the impression left by any other design that was previously available to public.
Industrial design protection can be obtained by issuing a decision on the industrial design registration and the recording thereof in the register. Application for industrial design registration is to be submitted to the Industrial Property Office. Protection of the industrial design lasts five years and can be extended to a maximum of 25 years.
The certification of products, processing, services, quality and personnel systems, are regulated by the Law on Standardisation (Regulation No.2004/12). Under this Law, the institution responsible for the issuing, application and determination of standards is the Kosovo Standardisation Agency (KSA). Standards issued by KSA are equally determined and applicable for all legal and physical, domestic and foreign persons that do business within the territory of Kosovo.
By implementing standards based on the EU and international practices, KSA aims to secure:
a. the protection of human life and health, environmental protection and other natural assets, and safety in the workplace;
b. the technical insurance of buildings, equipment, tools, and the work process;
c. the protection of customers that consume and use products and services, and the respective protection of participants’ interests in a given process.