Political Uncertainty in Kosovo Amid a Coronavirus Pandemic

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, Kosovo is experiencing political uncertainty after a vote of no confidence against Kurti’s cabinet was voted on March 25th.

Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which is the main partner of Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s “Self-determination” movement in the still-current Kosovo government, plans to form a new coalition for the upcoming snap elections. LDK leader Isa Mustafa said (14.04) that they are preparing a new coalition with Ramush Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), Fatmir Lajmaj’s Social Democratic Initiative (NSD), Behgjet Pacolli’s New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) and representatives of the minorities.

Mustafa also said that the LDK was ready to take on the mandate to form a new government after following the necessary constitutional procedures.

Meanwhile, President Hashim Thaci has proposed “Self-determination” to nominate a new prime ministerial candidate, as provided for in the constitution, but the party did not respond to the two presidential calls.

The constitution has not set a deadline for response, and “Self-determination” states that the current priority is fighting the coronavirus epidemic.

Kosovo legal experts disagree on what the next move should be. Some say Thaci must propose the mandate to another party, which can secure 61 votes in the 120 seat parliament, an option also demanded by the LDK, while many believe the president should wait for the answer of “Self-determination” and in the event that they do not respond, to announce new early elections to be held after the end of the pandemic, during which Kurti’s cabinet should continue to operate.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Kurti presented (14.04) a package of 15 measures to mitigate the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic, which envision to provide financial assistance for the poor and the economy. Kurti said: “We will help companies cover business costs to provide a minimum wage for their employees and to ensure that they can continue their activities during and after the pandemic”, adding that the measures include boosting employment in the private sector. He warned that the measures are not a long-term strategy for economic recovery but that new packages are planned to be adopted at a later stage to meet the long-term needs of the private sector. Kurti estimates the package is enough as an emergency but Kosovo needs loans and donations to tackle the crisis.

At the same time, the political crisis in Kosovo has echoed, both among European officials and public figures in the United States. Eliot Engel, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Robert Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warn in a letter to the secretary of state Mike Pompeo that Washington unfairly sanctions the government in Pristina and does nothing for Serbia’s campaign against recognizing Kosovo and buying weapons from Russia.

They find that “the United States has taken a “heavy-handed” approach to the elected government in Kosovo. We agree that Kosovo’s tariffs on Serbian goods, which have already been abolished, are causing problems mainly for Kosovo and its citizens, but this tool is used by governments around the world, including by the Trump administration. Kosovo is a close ally of the United States and we urge you to adopt a patient and constructive approach with its democratically elected government.”

The two Democratic Party officials stress that the United States plays a constructive role in the region and efforts to resolve the dispute between Belgrade and Pristina must be undertaken with the European Union.

According to them the lack of balance of Trump’s administration between Belgrade and Prishtina is taking place in the context of Belgrade expanding ties with Moscow and increasing imports of Russian armaments to Serbia. “The new weapon purchases require the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Serbia under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) passed by Congress after Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election.”

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