A BAD YEAR FOR KOSOVO/IBNA news agency brings some of the main topics that featured Kosovo during the year coming to an end. Unfortunately, the majority part of these events left a bad image for the process of Euro Atlantic integration and international recognitions for the new state. The report also talks about the isolation of Kosovo and the economic crisis and also the domestic and foreign problems of the country.
Pristina, December 29, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Elton Tota
January-Efforts for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia
Kosovo started 2014 with efforts to improve relations with neighboring countries, with the aim of making Kosovo recognized in the international scene. The main focus was the normalization of relations with Belgrade.
Following several meetings of a low level, on January 27, PM Hashim Thaci met with his Serb counterpart, Ivica Dacic.
The talks resulted a failure and led to no agreement. Thaci said that there was no agreement, but that there was progress, by saying that the agreement would be reached on the next meeting of February 12.
Meanwhile, the senior official of the European Enlargement Commissioner, Christian Danielsson, declared that Serbia’s conditions in the talks with Kosovo are clear, namely, to fully normalize relations, but the way how this was going to be achieved was not specified.
Unfortunately, the process of talks was suspended for six months due to the political and constitutional crisis in the country.
As far as relations with other countries of the region are concerned, Kosovo pledged that it would work intensively in order to strengthen regional cooperation in the Balkan.
February-Kosovo celebrates its independence anniversary
Without any doubt, the Independence day was a special day in February. Kosovars and Albanians everywhere in the Balkan region celebrated together the sixth anniversary of the youngest state. In the early hours of February 17, there were homage paid to the martyrs and monuments of the heroes of Kosovo. The head of the state of Kosovo said that the independence of Kosovo came as a result of the war for freedom and independence of the Albanian people, who had fought for centuries.
March-Decision is taken for Kosovo to have an army
During the month of March, government of Kosovo approved the decision to turn Kosovo’s Security Forces (FSK) into Kosovo’s Armed Forces (FAK) and to turn the Ministry of Security Forces into Ministry of Defense. Minister of Security Forces, Agim Ceku said that FAK will have five thousand active members and three thousand reservists. He said that the Army of Kosovo will have a mission to defend the country, sovereignty and territorial integrity, the interest and the wealth of the citizens, but also the life of the citizens of Kosovo. While signing the decision for the creation of Kosovo’s Armed Forces, PM Hashim Thaci considered this decision as one of the most important ones of his political life. “The creation of the army of Kosovo is an eternal guarantee for the safety of our children and the children of our children”, Thaci said.
April-International Tribunal for Kosovo?
During the month of April, domestic and international circles in Kosovo held a debate about the idea of the formation of the International Tribunal on Kosovo. IBNA published parts of the draft which says that the Tribunal will have international prosecutors and international judges and that its head office will be outside of Kosovo. This Tribunal would handle the investigations of war crimes in the period from 1998 until 1999 and the investigation of supposed political crimes, threats and witness murders during the period from 2000 until 2001. Head of EULEX mission, Bernd Borchardt claimed at that time that, “The Tribunal for the War Crimes in Kosovo will be a complicated process”. “There are serious allegations and if there are guilty people, then they must be identified and convicted, because these ruin the image of Kosovo”, said Brnd Borchardt. The new government of Kosovo was aware of the idea for the creation of the Tribunal, but it continued to insist that Kosovo has the necessary capacities to build law and order, by not ignoring the help of EULEX judges and prosecutors in shedding light on every possible crime. Meanwhile, experts of legal issues said that the creation of an international tribunal on Kosovo based abroad, would imply that the justice system in Kosovo has failed.
May-SAA negotiations finalized
Month of May must be considered as the most successful one in the path of Kosovo toward EU integration. Kosovo finalized its negotiations with the EU for the Stability and Association Agreement (SAA). In the third and last meeting for SAA, a document was signed in order to regulate political relations with the EU until the accession of Kosovo in the European Union.
EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule said that Kosovo has a lot to do in its path toward the integration in the European family. “Now, Kosovo has marked another important milestone, that of reaching the SAA agreement”, said Fule.
Nevertheless, according to him, Kosovo must also make other steps for its European integration. “The process of the normalization of relations with Serbia, the holding of general elections, rights and liberties and the need to continue with the reforms for the rule of law are very important”, said Fule.
Thaci said that the agreement would be the foundation of the integration of the country in the EU.
May 28 saw the start of the election campaign for the parliamentary elections. During the 10 day campaign, political parties unveiled their programs, which were mainly focused on the economic development of the country.
June-The parliamentary elections and the political crisis
June 8 saw the holding of early parliamentary elections in Kosovo. The results made Democratic Party of Kosovo the first party. The Central Election Commission said that PDK won 30.38% of the votes followed by Democratic League of Kosovo with 25.24%, Self Determination with 13.59%, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo with 9.5% and Incentive for Kosovo with over 5%. The New Kosovo Alliance, which was in the Thaci government coalition, could not exceed the threshold of 5%, which is the threshold of entering parliament. At midnight, the Democratic Party announced its victory in these elections, which saw the participation of 43% of voters or 1 million and 800 thousand citizens eligible to vote.
This was a low turnout compared as opposed to expectations and according to experts, it reflects the discontent on the current situation in the country. Contrary to many previous elections, these elections were positively evaluated by domestic and foreign monitors, but they brought a deep political crisis which lasted for six months in a row.
As the winning party, PDK could not secure partners to form a coalition government.
Opposition leaders held a meeting where they decided that they would put an end to Thaci 3 government. Isa Mustafa, Ramush Haradinaj, Fatmir Limaj, signed on December 10 an agreement to govern together.
Six months later, following a ruling of the Constitutional Court, the opposition bloc could not elect the speaker of parliament and other state institutions. As a result, the bloc was dispersed. Thaci signed an agreement with LDK leader, Isa Mustafa, thus controlling a majority in parliament. The six months of the parliament’s non functioning marked the longest period during which parliament in Kosovo has not functioned. This crisis seriously damaged the Euro integration processes of Kosovo, negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, international recognitions and caused serious damages in the economic aspect.
July-“Peace Park” causes tension in Mitrovica
Month of June and July were accompanied with tension in the northern part of Mitrovica. Mayor of Northern Mitrovica, Goran Rakic along with the Serbs of this part, removed the barricade over Iber River and planted several plant trees. They said that they were building the “Peace Park”.
According to Serb officials, the fresh blockade of the bridge was done in full coordination with the Serb government. Numerous police forces have not even attempted to prevent this blocking. Rakic said that in the symbolical aspect, the removal of this barricade and the building of the peace park is a message for the entire world that Serbs from this territory refuse to live in fear.
Head of the Kosovo Office at the Serb government, Marko Djuric said that the so called Peace Park on the Iber Bridge in Mitrovica, would not be removed until an acceptable solution was found between the Serbs and Albanians living in the city.
Representatives of civil society in the southern part of Mitrovica considered it as a reinstallment of the barricade. Valdete Idrizi from “CiviKos Platform” has considered this event as shameful.
The expert of security affairs, Agim Musliu, said that the removal of the barricade over the Iber river and the installment of another one, in a more relaxed way, doesn’t really have an effect in the security aspect in the country.
According to him, this is another provocation on the part of Serbs, which can tension the situation in the north of Mitrovica even more.
August-40 terrorist suspects arrested
During the month of August, police of Kosovo arrested 40 people on suspicion of their involvement in the fights in Syria and Iraq. The operation was held throughout the country. Police official, Baki Kelani said that the aim of this operation was the arrest of people who were suspected of participating in the fights in Syria and Iraq alongside terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al Nusra. According to the prosecutor of the case, Blerim Isufi, the arrests came as a result of long investigations.
PM Thaci said that, “every threat against the fundamental values of the state and our society will be punished without mercy”.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria between the dictator regime of Bashar Al-Assad and Syrian rebels, more than 150 thousand Syrian fighters including voluntaries from the Balkan have died. Among them, there were also 28 Albanians from Kosovo, Albania, FYROM and Presevo. According to IBNA’s sources around 600 recruits from the Balkan are fighting alongside the rebels and a significant number, over 150, come from Kosovo.
September-Serbia returns to Kosovo the remains of 24 bodies of Albanians killed during the war
During the month of September, Serb authorities have handed to EULEX the remains of 24 bodies of Albanians killed during the war, who were buried in Rashka, Serbia.
The Coroner’s office made their identification and the remains were delivered to the families, with the assistance of the Kosovo’s Missing Persons Council. This was the second repatriation facilitated by EULEX. So far, around 40 bodies found in the massive graveyard of Rudnica have been repatriated. There have been 456 operations on the field and the remains of 413 people have been given to their families. 315 of them were on the list of missing persons. On August 22, Serbia handed to EULEX the remains of another 16 bodies killed during the war in Kosovo. They were found in Rudnica, in Rashka.
October-Brussels comes out with a black and white report on Kosovo
On October 8, the EU special representative of Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar has delivered the European Commission Progress report to the president of the country, Atifete Jahjaga and PM Thaci. In the report, authorities of Kosovo have been criticized for “failing to constitute the new parliament on time”, considering this as a “step backwards”.
Zbogar said that the progress report is positive and he hails the successful finalization of the process of Stability and Association Agreement. The report also praised the progress for the liberalization of visas and cooperation with EULEX.
The report also criticized the lack of reforms in the justice system, public administration, fight against corruption, political influence on independent institutions, uncompetitive economy and the failure to solve the political crisis. President Jahjaga said that Kosovo remains committed for the identified challenges to be addressed at once.
November-Political crisis comes to an end, parliament voted the new government
Month of November brought a solution to the political crisis in Kosovo, which could lead the country in a budget and financial crisis. With the assistance of the international community, PDK and LDK signed the governing agreement. Kadri Veseli was elected speaker of parliament. Parliament has voted the new government and its prime minister, Isa Mustafa. Head of PDK, Hashim Thaci was appointed first deputy PM and Foreign Minister.
The new PM said that he will work for the economic development of the country, rule of law and integration in Euro Atlantic structures.
The new government was also hailed by the EU Office and ambassadors of EU member countries accredited in Kosovo. “Kosovo faces many challenges ahead, political and economic reforms. The country must make the social economic development a priority, along with employment and talks with Serbia. Authorities must consolidate the rule of law and fight corruption, fully cooperate with EULEX and create the special court”, they said.
December-Great numbers of Kosovo nationals continue to leave the country
The solution of the political crisis and the creation of the new government didn’t offer much hope to Kosovars. As a result of poverty and the non functioning of the state, departures of Kosovo nationals to western countries were intensified during December. Every day, hundreds of citizens leave from different cities of the country in spite of the appeal of state leaders that asylum seeking is a sacrifice not worthy risking for. According to statistics, in the months to June of this year, around 10 thousand Kosovo nationals have sought asylum in the EU member countries. In the interviews that IBNA has had, citizens claim that they have decided to leave the country as a result of the lack of a perspective in Kosovo they say that Kosovo is being governed by irresponsible people who do not think about the future of young generations, but only about their personal interests. According to them, in Kosovo there’s no employment, no good education, no good health services and life is very difficult. /ibna/