11 January 2021

The situation in Kosovo stays unpredictable and fast-moving

Stelian Teodorescu

On January 6th, the interim Kosovar president, Vjosa Osmani, has dissolved the Kosovo Assembly and announced the organization of early elections to be held on February 14th 2021. The decision was made after the Constitutional Court in Kosovo has decided that the government led by the prime-minister Abdullah Hoti is illegitimate because the government which voted on June 3rd with a minimum of 61 votes majority in the Kosovo Assembly (out of 120 parliamentarians) got also a vote from deputy Etem Arifi, a politician convicted for corruption.

Image source: Profimedia

 Also, the decision of the Constitutional Court has provoked a debate on whether the leader of the Vetevendosje Movement, the former prime-minister Albert Kurti, can still run for the Parliament in Pristina.

The debate was provoked because in January 2018 a court has issued parole punishments for four parliamentarians in the Vetendosje Movement – A. Kurti, Donika Kadaj Bujupi, Albulena Haxhiu and Faton Topalli – the reason behind these was that they used tear gases in the Parliament.

Given the circumstance, it became quite clear that the decision of the Constitutional Court has opened the path to holding early legislative elections on February 14th, but it also raised huge questions on the eligibility of Albin Kurti. Despite this situation, officials from the Vetevendosje Movement have stated that A. Kurti will be on party’s candidates list. The former justice minister, A. Haxhiu, has underlined that “the attempt to create inexistent circumstances, unfounded and unclear, is unacceptable and wrong…, and the elections day will be a manifestation of democracy when the Vetendosje Movement, with a list led by A. Kurti, will get a huge popular support”.

However, Faton Fetahu, a lawyer who worked on the files sent to the Constitutional Court, has underlined that the decision forbids A. Kurti to run for the elections or for his party to nominate him to became prime-minister, underlining for the media that: “The Constitutional Court has clarified that there should be “clean” people in the parliament, free of any conviction or criminal charges”.

Albin Kurti won almost 184.000 votes at the elections held in 2019, and the polls already present him as the leader for getting the prime-minister position. A former member of the Constitutional Court, Gjyljeta Mushkolaj, has stated  that the new decision of this institution “is more complicated than it seems, as it is important for the Constitutional Court to dispute the position of a parliamentarian whose mandate was previously revoked”. Also, she sees controversial views and tensions between the law and the Constitutional when it comes to people’s right to run for the elections, saying: “With all this interpretation, I am afraid that the Constitutional Court has raised only one serious problem that could provoke other complaints from those who were prohibited to run for the elections as deputies”.

Also,  Kreshnik Gashi, coordinator of the "Justice of Kosovo" TV show, agreed that the ruling raises many questions, including local elections scheduled for the end of this year, stressing that "it will continue to produce political crises and interpreting this decision will lead to more crises, because there are many candidates for mayor who have problems with the law”.

Thus, the Kosovar interim President Vjosa Osmani has talked about the intention of the Pristina authorities, after the Biden administration comes to power, to call for talks on agreements signed with Serbia in September 2020, during Donald Trump's presidency. V. Osmani was elected President of the Kosovo Parliament in February 2020 and took over as interim President of Kosovo in November 2020, when Hashim Thaçi resigned after being indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On January 4th, Mr Osmani said that after Biden took office, Kosovo should discuss with Washington the revision of some of the agreements, which he believed had proved to be wrong. In this context, it should be recalled that in September 2020, the Presidents of Kosovo and Serbia, Avdullah Hoti and Aleksandar Vučić, signed, at the White House, agreements on economic issues mainly, but it is important to underline that the agreements were separately signed by Kosovo and Serbia with the US, not between the two entities.

"We need to sit down and talk to the team of US President Biden, to see what he thinks about those issues that have been reached as promises, not as an agreement", V. Osmani told Kosovo media.

In that agreement, Kosovo and Serbia pledged to work with the United States to explore the possibility of sharing Lake Ujmani/Gazivode, an important strategic reservoir claimed by both sides.

Vjosa Osmani stressed that "no one believes that the new US administration will just throw this agreement to the trash", expressing his hope that the Biden administration will favor the revision of an EU-mediated agreement signed with Serbia in 2015 to set up a so-called Association of Serb-majority Municipalities in northern Kosovo. Serbs see the idea as a guarantee that their interests will be protected, but Albanian politicians in Kosovo say a parallel Serbian power center is being set up.

Serbia insists the Association must be established following the agreement, but the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruled in 2015 that many of the association's provisions do not comply with Kosovo's constitutional provisions. V. Osmani said the agreement, signed by former Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, would make Kosovo a dysfunctional state, while stressing that "he is convinced that it is in the Biden administration's interest to keep Kosovo functioning".

It is noteworthy that Serbia and Kosovo concluded an initial energy supply agreement, in 2015, as part of EU-mediated talks to normalize relations. As a result, a company in Northern Mitrovica is competing to supply energy to the four Serbian municipalities in northern Kosovo - but the implementation of the agreement may be delayed by confusing developments in Kosovo.

At the same time, it is noteworthy that Serbia withdrew, refusing to accept any symbol of the statehood of its former province whose independence it does not recognize. Therefore, it has been agreed that the Kosovo operator KOSTT will be recognized as a supplier for the entire territory of Kosovo, while Elektromreža Srbije, from Serbia, will provide support to the Kosovo operator to become a member of the European network.

The intention came two weeks after KOSTT began operating independently across the country as part of a new energy bloc, including Albania. The measure gave KOSTT independence from Serbian operator Elektromreža Srbije, which has so far distributed electricity to Serb-dominated municipalities in northern Kosovo.

Thus, we can state that the situation in Kosovo is increasingly complex and developments in that region are fast-moving and could lead to unpredictable transformations, in 2021, in the entire Western Balkans region.