- Kurti: People don’t want to give Mitrovicë/Mitrovica in exchange for national unification (KTV)
- Kosnett: Government should be formed as soon as possible (RTKLive)
- Haradinaj’s Cabinet spent one million euro for two years (KTV)
- Ombudsperson Institution marks its 19th anniversary (Klan Kosova, EkonomiaOnline)
- CEC: Recount process might be completed this Sunday (Klan Kosova)
- Kosovo police publish photo of “suspects in Oliver Ivanovic’s murder” (N1)
- A year of 100% taxes (Kossev)
Kurti: People don’t want to give Mitrovicë/Mitrovica in exchange for national unification
Leader of Vetëvendosje Movement and the Prime Minister designate Albin Kurti said that the desire for national unification has vanished because of the territory exchange idea.
In an interview with Top Channel, he said that people are not willing to give Mitrovicë/Mitrovica in exchange for national unification.
“Vanishing of the desire for unification derives from the territory exchange idea. People do not want to give away Mitrovicë/Mitrovica in exchange for national unification. In Kosovo there are many politicians who speak about exchange, by giving up the north. In Serbia there is no politician who speaks about giving territories. We do not give up, we have not changed the concept, but we have changed the manner and the strategy, we also have done some political calculation. Recently, we have highlighted what is less known: we do not believe that Albanians are poor and unemployed because of Albania’s culture, or because of wealth or poverty, but because of the wrong political model. We have retaken a forsaken idea, it is national unification that makes us more than we make it; it makes us, and we comprise it,” he said.
He also spoke about his relationship with the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, while adding that disagreements between them are being abused by those who do not want Albania’s unification with Kosovo.
“I express my dissatisfaction with the misuse of criticism and disagreements between me and Rama, and these misinterpretations are made by those who do not want the unification between Albania and Kosovo,” he said.
Kurti stated that he has always had strong debates with the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
“Disagreements with Rama are misused for the frictions that someone wants between the two countries. There are people who are against the unification of Kosovo with Albania,” Kurti said.
“Let’s help the EU by aiming a federation of ours,” he added.
While speaking about the march that Vetëvendosje Movement will hold in Tirana on November 28 which was qualified by Prime Minister Rama as a mistake.
“Mistake? What can I say, now I think it’s not a mistake, I don’t know what to say. Doing public activities for unification, this is almost a duty,” Kurti concluded.
Kosnett: Government should be formed as soon as possible
Commenting on the parliamentary elections in Kosovo, United States Ambassador to Kosovo Philip Kosnett said in an interview with Telegrafi portal that the people have voted for change by voting for parties that demanded reduction of corruption and economic development.
“It is clear that the people of Kosovo voted for change by electing parties whose focus is on reducing corruption and boosting economic development. The United States also embraces these goals,” said Kosnett.
The Ambassador said he expects certification of elections and the formation of the new Government as soon as possible.
“Just like everyone in Kosovo, we expect certification of results in the next few days, and we expect the new Government to be formed as soon as possible. The Embassy encourages constant discussions on government formation before the results are certified. We expect, as the Constitution requires, that the Government of Kosovo will serve the public good for all its citizens of all communities. We expect from all the parties, be them in government or in opposition, to behave responsibly and constructively,” Ambassador Kosnett said.
Kosnett also spoke about the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, adding that the break in the dialogue has not helped Kosovo economically or internationally.
“The break in the dialogue has not helped Kosovo economically or internationally. When it will be formed, the new government should give a new infusion to negotiations with Serbia. The United States will always stand behind Kosovo’s sovereignty and independence, but, as the Special Representative Matt Palmer recently said in Prishtinë/Pristina, we cannot see a path to Kosovo’s full integration into the international system without the inclusion of a comprehensive agreement with Serbia in it. Better relations with Serbia will not shift attention from efforts to build a better future for the people of Kosovo, but will complement them,” the US Ambassador said.
He hopes that the new Government will address these serious topics.
“I am optimistic that the new government will listen to the will of the people and address these serious issues,” US Ambassador Kosnett ended.
Haradinaj’s Cabinet spent one million euro for two years
The Cabinet of incumbent Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj spent around 1 million euro for two years.
All 41 members of his Cabinet, excluding their salaries, spent 966,307 euro from the state budget.
Out of this amount, over 114,000 euro was spent on flight tickets, 85,000 euro on hotel accommodation, 82,000 euro on per diems, 33,000 euro expenses from credit card, and 58,000 euro on other expenses.
One of Haradinaj’s people who spent the most is Avni Arifi, although last year he changed his job from Chief of Cabinet to Ambassador.
Arifi spent 50,000 euro in total; out of this amount, 11,000 euro was spent on per diems, over 18,000 euro expenses from credit card, and 16,000 euro on flight tickets.
Despite the fact that the data have been obtained from the statement of expenses from Prime Minister’s Office as presented to Koha Ditore, former Chief of Haradinaj’s Cabinet said that categorisation of the expenses was done in a scandalous manner by the Office where he worked until a few months ago.
“In daily press in Kosovo, my name has been mentioned as a protagonist of expenses during my 20-months stay in the Office of the Prime Minister. I would like to emphasise that those are not expenses of Avni Arifi, and not only expenses of the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister, but also of the Chief of negotiations with Serbia. The incumbent government did not have a ministry for dialogue, as the case had been with the previous government, neither a special fund for negotiations, as there had always been. Many of the expenses for dialogue generated in 2018, were covered by Office of the Prime Minister under my name and under the bankcard, which I possessed. In addition, on some occasions, invoices of common events of the Cabinet were covered by my card. The manner of explanation of expenses by Office of the Prime Minister is regretful, and the manner of categorisation of expenses is even worse. With such a totally scandalous categorisation, any conclusion is understandable, even when it is inaccurate,” Arifi wrote on Facebook.
Avni Arifi was succeeded by Gani Demaj. More than half of Demaj’s expenses are unjustified.
Under the category of other expenses, it has been stated that he spent 20,541 euro.
Demaj spent 16,000 euro on accommodation, 2,000 euro on tickets, 3,000 euro on per diems, and 3,000 euro on telephone expenses.
Contacted by Kohavision, Demaj refused to speak about the expenses, saying that they should have phoned him before the data were published.
Businessmen Erolld Belegu and Gazmend Abrashi, members of Haradinaj’s Cabinet, made many expenses from the state budget, too.
For two years, Belegu spent 35,000 euro; out of this amount, he spent 12,000 euro on accommodation, 12,000 euro on flight tickets, 6,000 euro on per diems, and over 4,603 euro other expenses.
Over telephone, Belegu justified his expenses with his frequent trips to the United States.
Gazmend Abrashi, for 24 months spent 18,000 euro; out of this amount, 7,000 euro was spent on tickets, 5,000 on accommodation, 4,000 on per diems, and about 2,000 euro other expenses.
Abrashi did not answer telephone calls from Kohavision.
More than 10,000 euro was spent also by other members of Haradinaj’s Cabinet: Alban Dermaku 23,000 euro, Meliza Haradinaj 20,000 euro, Jahja Lluka 20,000 euro, Labinot Selimaj and Selim Selimi over 15,000 euro each, Donjeta Gashi about 14,000 euro, Albulena Gjinaj 12,000 euro.
Ombudsperson Institution marks its 19th anniversary
(Klan Kosova, EkonomiaOnline)
The Kosovo Ombudsperson Hilmi Jashari said that over the years this institution has become one of the most trusted ones in the Balkans.
“There are 19 years of experience, followed by assessments and annual reports,” he said
“This institution has become one of the most trusted institutions in the Balkans. Kosovo is continuing to face major challenges. We along with our counterparts continue to work towards fulfilling our mission. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my colleagues for the good results that have been achieved. (This success) would not be possible without the sincere cooperation of all other Kosovo institutions.”
President of the Constitutional Court, Arta Rama-Hajrizi, said that this institution has helped to implement constitutionality in Kosovo by initiating constitutional amendments.
“In particular in recent years, this institution has been very active in investigating human rights violations decisions and in compiling complaints before the Constitutional Court,” she said.
“Ombudsperson’s requests have always had a primary focus on guaranteeing and protecting the rights in accordance with the Constitution and human rights conventions.”
Representative of the EU Office in Kosovo, Ricardo Serri, said that the Ombudsperson is among the most trusted institutions in Kosovo.
“The Ombudsperson goes beyond other lawyers because this institution has the right to make recommendations on human rights violations,” he said.
“This institution has also become a member of the Ombudsperson Association a few days ago and this speaks about their work.”
Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jan Braathu, said the Ombudsperson Institution is a very trusted and independent institution.
“Today is the 19th anniversary of this institution and it is a chance to reflect on the challenges that will come,” he said.
“You in Kosovo have a very trusted and independent institution and I congratulate you on this. The institution is yours and it is very functional. This institution is headed by Hilmi Jashari, who has four female deputies. This is very good and is to be commended,” he said.
CEC: Recount process might be completed this Sunday
The Central Election Commission (CEC) has stated that the recount of over 1.400 polling stations might be completed earlier than planned.
CEC spokesperson Valmir Elezi stated to KlanKosova.tv that it might happen this Sunday.
“We believe we will complete the recount earlier than planned. The plan was that the whole process would be completed by Monday, and today we can say that it is very likely that recount of more than 1.400 polling stations at ECAP’s decision might be completed even this Sunday,” Elezi said.
“Since 438 polling stations are left to be recounted, as until Wednesday midnight 969 polling stations, namely 68.87 per cent were recounted, we believe that the recount process can be completed one day earlier, on Sunday,” he added.
“The recount process has begun on 13th November in the afternoon, and within five-seven days, the average of recounted polling stations per work day from 8 o’clock in the morning until midnight has been about 130 polling stations,” Elezi explained.
Kosovo police publish photo of “suspects in Oliver Ivanovic’s murder”
Kosovo prosecutors’ office released a photo of two men it said were suspects in the assassination of local Serb opposition politician Oliver Ivanovic, and asked public help in identifying them, the KoSSev website reported on Thursday.
Almost two years after the murder in the northern part of the divided Mitrovica town mostly populated by local Serbs, Kosovo Police Directorate for investigating serious crimes and the Special Prosecutors’ office called on people to help to identify the two who, they said, lived in the same street as Ivanovic.
Following the 22-month-long investigation, Kosovo police widened the probe to “the two young suspects, and Sul Hoxha, the chief prosecutor, said in October they were involved in organised crime. It remained unclear when the police got hold of the photo – immediately after the assassination, as officially reported, or the image was new evidence in the investigation.
Ivanovic was gunned down in January 2018, outside his political organisation office.
Some two months before the assassination, pro-government Pink TV slammed Ivanovic as a traitor during the campaign for local elections in Kosovo.
A year of 100% taxes
Exactly one year has passed since the Kosovo government revised its initial decision to impose a 10% tax increase on imports of goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and raised it to 100%, thus effectively suspending legal trade with Serbia and Bosnia. The consequences of that decision were not felt in the municipalities in the north of Kosovo, but its effect is noticeable in the Serb-majority communities in the south. Despite considerable involvement of foreign diplomats and numerous calls to the Kosovo government to withdraw or suspend this decision, the taxes still remain in force, as it appears, due to the persistence of Kosovo’s outgoing Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj.
The tax increase was proposed by the Minister of Trade, Endrit Shala, following Kosovo’s failed attempt at joining INTERPOL. The Kosovo public was thrilled over the adoption of the tax increase. Perhaps the most striking example of the approval of this decision was the cover of the daily newspaper Zeri of a STOP sign with the inscription „From the takozvano (so-called) Kosovo with love“.
The most controversial form of showing support for this decision was the burning of Serbian products. Several such events took place in cities across Kosovo, including Kacanik and Decani, while several persons were arrested in the center of Pristina for burning Serbian products.
The burning of Serbian products in Pristina was directly broadcast by T7 television.
At that point, numerous political representatives, including Haradinaj, Veseli, Enver Hoxhaj and Limaj, argued that their influence was crucial to the decision to impose the tariffs. However, in the coming months, many of them changed their statements and started claiming the opposite.
The decision to impose the tax on products from Serbia was personified in the famous biscuit from Serbia – Plazma, followed by a debate about which biscuit is better – the Kosovan Sempre or Plazma from Serbia. In many of Pristina’s pastry shops, even in Plazma cakes whose main ingredient is the Plazma biscuit, it was replaced by the Sempre. The pastry chefs claimed it tasted better, while outgoing Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj also joined the debate. “’Sempre’ – it may be better than ‘Plazma’, because it is ours,” Haradinaj said at the time.
However, despite the taxes, products from Serbia found a way of reaching shops across Kosovo. A deputy in the Kosovo Assembly even expressed his dissatisfaction that the juice made near Belgrade found its way to this Kosovo legislative body.
It was suspected that the products from Serbia were being shipped to Macedonia, processed, and then repackaged with a sign indicating that goods were made in Macedonia.
The effect of the tax increase was quickly seen in the daily press from Serbia which stopped arriving in Kosovo as early as November 22nd. OSCE media spokesman, Armel Dezir reacted to this threat to the citizens’ right to be informed in their native language. A few months ago, this issue was brought to the fore again by Reporters Without Borders, who described the taxes as „financial measures used as a censorship tool for Serbian language media.“
Still, newspaper delivery is one of the few examples of tax-induced problems which has been resolved in the meantime. Serbian newspapers could not be found in Kosovo for 5 months, until ‘KIM Beokolp’ reached an agreement with the publishers and reduced prices so that the distributor could afford to pay the 100% import tax.
The decision on taxes caused a political crisis in the north and led to early local elections. In protest of the Kosovo government’s decision, the mayors of the municipalities of North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan resigned only a few days after the taxes were introduced.
The decision of the mayors from the ranks of Srpska Lista was welcomed by their colleagues from Serb-majority municipalities in the south. They, however, did not resign. The early local elections held on May 19th did not bring any significant changes, with three of the four Serb mayors – Goran Rakic, Zoran Todic and Vucina Jankovic – re-elected. Only the mayor of Zubin Potok, Stevan Vulovic was replaced by his brother Srdjan Vulovic. Despite the announcement that they would leave the institutions if the taxes are not abolished, the taxes were not abolished, nor did these political announcements came to fruition.
The decision of the mayors of the municipalities in the north to resign was followed by several protests against 100% taxes on products from Serbia, most often organized by the Student Parliament of the University of Pristina with a temporary headquarters in North Mitrovica.
During these protests, the students organized numerous performances, and one of them was a video game – „Throw Plazma over Jarinje“. Also, one of the student performances titled „Kosovoschwitz“ provoked a harsh reaction from the German ambassador, Christian Heldt. Heldt said that the performance is actually insulting the horrors the Serb people suffered at the hand of German Nazis during the Second World War.
Several music stars shared their support of the Kosovo Serbs’ protest against the 100% taxes by attending and hosting concerts in the north. The concert of the Serbian folk diva, Svetlana Raznatovic Ceca sparked controversy among the Kosovo public and announcements that she would not be allowed to enter Kosovo. Ceca was allowed to enter the country, however, her concert was attended by a surprisingly small number of people.
A month after the introduction of the taxes, an administrative instruction entered into force in Kosovo, which stipulates that in addition to the price of the product, each store must display a flag of the country of origin next to the product. For the Kosovo authorities, the adoption and implementation of an administrative instruction represented another protection measure for domestic production. Almost a year later, this administrative instruction is not respected in many markets in Kosovo. In the north of Kosovo, such administrative instruction have never come to fruition.
The news that garnered the most attention when it comes to displaying the flags of the country of origin next to the products was the Kosovo Market Inspectorate’s discovery in one of the markets in Pristina where, incidentally or intentionally, a Kosovo flag was displayed under the Serbian product – the ‘Noblice’ biscuit.
At the end of December, the Kosovo Government introduced another restrictive measure and decided to extend the decision on taxes to products of foreign companies that have production facilities in Serbia.
The introduction of these other measures was also announced in December, however, these new measures never came into force. On one occasion, Haradinaj cited „reciprocity for Serbia’s behavior“ as a new possible measure.
Announcements of „countermeasures“ also arrived from Belgrade, which was also never realized. The President of Serbia stated at the end of June that they did not give up on the countermeasures for Pristina, adding that it is „very difficult“ to do so without the Serbs in Kosovo also feeling the consequences of such decision.
Kosovo Police Special Units conducted an arrest action on May 28th under the name „Smuggling“, during which 19 members of the Kosovo Police from the north were arrested. The action continued in the following days when two more police officers were arrested at the Jarinje crossing and in South Mitrovica, as well as one Kosovo police officer in Zubin Potok. They were arrested on the suspicion of involvement in smuggling, organized crime, corruption and abuse of office. The arrest action also continued about a month ago when three police officers were arrested in the early morning in North Mitrovica.
Zubin Potok residents presented allegations of police brutality during the May 28th police action under the name „Smuggling“ when a dozen people were hospitalized after obtaining injuries while allegedly obstructing officials in performing their official duty. Six of the people injured also presented these claims before the court, where the judge documented the visible injuries on their faces and bodies. Also, at the last UN Security Council session on Kosovo, UNMIK Chief of Staff Zahir Tanin said that a month-long investigation by UN experts showed that there was „strong evidence of excessive use of force by Kosovo police“ during the May arrest action.
The impact of taxes on the availability of goods from Serbia in municipalities in the north became noticeable in the summer of 2019, after the Kosovo police action during which several police officers were arrested. A month after these arrests, Serbian merchants from the north stopped acquiring goods from the south, while at the same time, supplies from Serbia through alternative routes were suspended. This decision first led to a shortage of dairy and other essential products and later to a two-day long protest of shops and pharmacies in the north. Serbian officials called this period a humanitarian crisis, while Kosovo officials spoke of a staged crisis aimed at destabilizing Kosovo.
After the stores were opened, President Vucic also said that the procurement of goods from Serbia had resumed thanks to the Serbian government. Vucic also claimed that he would deliver food, water and medicine to the Serbian people „even if he has to become a notorious European Robin Hood.“
Although the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue was in crisis even before the introduction of the taxes and after the idea of delimitation appeared in public, this move by the Kosovo government – allegedly a response to Serbia’s „aggressive campaign“ against Kosovo’s recognition and membership in international organizations – it was completely suspended after the introduction of the taxes.
To date, the withdrawal or suspension of taxes remains a major condition for the continuation of the dialogue of both Serbia and Western countries, including the US. After the last parliamentary elections in Kosovo, the winner of this election – the Self-Determination movement, announced that they could replace taxes with reciprocity. However, the party did not provide details of this policy of reciprocity, so it remains unclear what such a policy could entail.
Damage to the economies of Serbia and Kosovo
While this decision had no major effect on the supply of goods in the north, it had a significant impact on Serbia’s economy. According to the Serbian Minister of Trade, Rasim Ljajic, in the past year, Serbia exported fewer goods in the value of €395.7 million to Kosovo.
On the other hand, there are numerous studies of NGOs and international organizations that indicate that this decision had negative effects on the Kosovo economy as well.
Pristina think-tank GAP Institute published an analysis in May which stated that despite the fact that imports from Serbia declined by 88% (or €160 million) and by 83% from Bosnia (or €24 million), Kosovo again achieved a trade deficit. The institute concluded that this is indicative of the fact that local producers have not been able to utilize the space created in the market because of the taxes. They claim that the data indicates that the taxes have not achieved either the accelerated growth of the manufacturing industry in Kosovo nor did they result in an increase in the number of jobs.
A month later, the International Monetary Fund presented a similar discovery. The IMF’s representative, Stephanie Eble announced in Pristina that import taxes on products from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina led to an increase in consumer prices, especially food products, which affected households with lower incomes and weakened the external current account.