Civil Registry Books
Kosovo and Serbia reached the Agreement on Civil Registry Books on 2 July 2011, expressing their commitment to establish a reliable civil registry in Kosovo.
Given that the dialogue is supposed to improve the lives of citizens, the topic of civil registry books was listed among the priority issues.
During 1999, most civil registry books and personal documents in Kosovo were destroyed, lost, or relocated to Serbia, and Kosovars were challenged with the issue of missing records. The situation affected their access to social welfare, employment, property transactions, bank and financial registry and transitions, driving licenses and other benefits.
UNMIK administration had reconstructed the civil registry in Kosovo by issuing civil status documents or certificates to “habitual residents” (a term chosen by UNMIK to refer to 1) the ones born in Kosovo; 2) the ones that have at least one parent born in Kosovo; or 3) the ones that have resided for at least five consecutive years in Kosovo and are able to prove it); which among others were necessary to establish a pre-electoral census and to contribute to the battle against criminality and trafficking.
With all the efforts of Kosovo local institutions and UNMIK to reconstruct the civil registry, there were still many individuals with no personal documents or with incompatible duplications of their civil status certificates.
By October 2001, UNMIK had issued over 977, 000 identification cards and 77,500 UNMIK travel documents to the citizens.
After only four days from the conclusion of the Agreement on Civil Registry Books, the implementation started.
Serbia did not accept to return the original books, but rather agreed to provide scanned copies.
In line with the agreement:
- A tripartite “joint committee” of experts (from the two parties and EULEX) identified the missing original pre-1999 civil registry books;
- EULEX dealt with the certification of all original civil registry books from Kosovo, municipality by municipality, in consultation with both parties, if it was required;
- And the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) provided technical assistance.
European Union funded the project and both governments contributed (Serbia by covering the salary of staff working on data processing; Kosovo by giving its scanning software, worth €400,000).
The center where the certification took place was in Nis, Serbia and the process included the training of staff, transportation of original civil registry books from different municipalities to Nis and back, but also the digitalization.
For the purpose of defining the procedures on how such copies will be considered original, Kosovo adopted the Administrative Instruction on the use of certified copies of original records on civil status of Kosovo, in 2012.
Parties initiated a pilot project with the image taking/recording, printing and verification of religious, birth and marriage registry books for the municipality of Lipjan and Janjeve to continue with others. At the beginning of December 2011, Serbia copied the first original civil registry book from the municipality of Lipjan and Janjeve, EULEX certified it. Subsequently, EULEX handed it over to Pristina on 20 December 2011.
By March 2014, the agreement was implemented as Serbia returned 12, 036 copies of scanned civil registry books; which originally belonged to the following municipalities:
The implementation period was expected to last no longer than 9 months, but it rather took 2 years (until 6 March 2014). Nevertheless, the implementation of this agreement marks a successful achievement which brought tangible and positive results:
- Enabled Kosovo to consolidate its civil registry system; and
- Facilitated the implementation of the requirements related to document security in the framework of the Visa Liberalization process with the EU.