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Posts tagged ‘Crime Land of Kosovo’

Preliminary results: Ex-rebels win Kosovo election

June 11, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The coalition of former ethnic Albanian rebel commanders won the most votes Sunday in Kosovo’s general election, which also saw a surge in popularity for a nationalist party, according to preliminary results.

The ex-rebels came in first with around 35 percent of the vote. The nationalist Self-Determination Movement was neck-and-neck with the coalition led by former Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, which had around 26 percent each after the counting of about 70 percent of the votes, according to Democracy in Action, a monitoring group.

No group can govern alone and coalitions will be likely. The new Cabinet will have a tough job in resolving several thorny issues, including the border demarcation deal with Montenegro. The approval of another agreement with Serbia giving more rights to the ethnic Serb minority, and the continuation of fraught talks with Belgrade, which denies Kosovo’s existence as a state, were also key concerns.

Ramush Haradinaj, whom the leading coalition has nominated to be prime minister, hailed Kosovars “for the trust given to the coalition,” adding “these are the best elections ever held” in Kosovo. “The victory is convincing and make us capable of operating further to create the country’s government,” he said.

The final results for the new 120-seat parliament are expected later in the week. Ethnic Serbs and other minorities have 20 out of 120 seats in the parliament. Self-Determination Movement officials celebrated the results, which saw the party double its share of the vote. The party has been a disruptive force in the previous parliament and is the biggest opposition party to shun pre-election coalitions. The party’s members and supporters released tear gas inside parliament and threw firebombs outside it to protest the contentious deals with Montenegro and Serbia.

The party has nominated its former leader, 42-year-old Albin Kurti, as a candidate for prime minister. If elected, the party says it “is the only one which is going to fight corruption in a successful way,” send former officials to jail, end the current talks with Serbia while seeking a closer union with neighboring Albania.

Kosovo’s election authorities say that preliminary figures put turnout in the country’s general election at 41.79 percent. Central Election Commission head Valdete Daka says that “there have been no problems that would gravely damage the process.”

The turnout is smaller than in the previous polls, for example in 2014, when it was 42.63 percent. Kosovo is the only western Balkan country whose citizens need visas to enter the EU’s Schengen zone. To join, Brussels insists Kosovo’s parliament must first approve a border demarcation deal signed with Montenegro in 2015.

Opposition parties say that deal meant a loss of territory, over 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres), or less than 1 percent of Kosovo’s land. The former Cabinet, international experts and the country’s Western backers dispute that claim.

The Self-Determination Movement and others also oppose another deal signed in 2015 that gave more rights to the ethnic Serb minority. A further issue is the prospect of former ethnic Albanian senior rebel commanders facing prosecution in the newly established war crimes court. The court in The Hague is expected to shortly issue indictments for crimes committed against civilians during and after the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

Kosovo votes amid thorny issues of border, talks with Serbia

June 11, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Voters in Kosovo were casting their ballots Sunday in an early general election for the new 120-seat parliament. At stake are thorny issues of the border demarcation deal with Montenegro that brought down the previous government, and the approval of another deal with Serbia giving more rights to the ethnic Serb minority.

The continuation of fraught talks with Belgrade — which denies Kosovo’s existence as a state — is also a key concern. Nineteen political parties, five coalitions and two citizens’ initiatives, all promising to secure economic growth and ease Kosovars’ travel restrictions to the European Union, have nominated candidates.

Among the contenders are a coalition of three major parties run by former rebel commanders. They have proposed Ramush Haradinaj, still regarded by Serbia as a war criminal, as prime minister. Others include Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s party, which nominates former finance Minister Avdullah Hoti for leadership, and the Self-Determination Movement, the biggest opposition party to shun pre-election coalitions, which put forward their founder Albin Kurti as a candidate for prime minister.

Valdete Daka, head of the Central Election Commission that manages the electoral process, called on Kosovars to vote “to show to the world we are part of democracy and know how to hold elections properly” after casting her ballot at a polling station in the capital, Pristina.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The new state has been recognized by 114 countries, including the United States and most of the EU members, but not by Belgrade. Kosovo is the only western Balkan country whose citizens need visas to enter the European Union’s Schengen zone. To join, Brussels insists Kosovo’s parliament must first approve a border demarcation deal signed with Montenegro in 2015.

Opposition parties say that deal meant a loss of territory, over 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres), or less than 1 percent of Kosovo’s land. The former Cabinet, international experts and the country’s Western backers dispute that claim.

The Self-Determination Movement and others also oppose another deal signed in 2015 that gave more rights to the ethnic Serb minority. A further issue is the prospect of former ethnic Albanian senior rebel commanders facing prosecution in the newly established international war crimes court. The court in The Hague is expected to shortly issue indictments for crimes committed against civilians during and after the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

Kosovo’s general election poses headaches for the winner

June 10, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovars vote on Sunday to choose the new 120-seat parliament that will face some seemingly intractable problems. There is the thorny issue of the border demarcation deal with Montenegro that brought down the previous government; the continuation of fraught talks with Serbia, which denies Kosovo’s existence as a state; and potential war crimes trials of some senior political leaders.

Nineteen political parties, five coalitions and two citizens’ initiatives, all promising to break the isolation and secure growth, have nominated candidates. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The new state has been recognized by 114 countries, including the United States and most of the EU members, but not by Belgrade.

Kosovo is the only western Balkan country whose citizens need visas to enter the European Union’s Schengen zone. To join, Brussels insists Kosovo must first approve the border demarcation deal. That deal with Montenegro was signed in 2015 but opposition parties say it meant a loss of territory, over 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres), or less than 1 percent of Kosovo’s land. The former Cabinet, international experts and the country’s Western backers dispute that claim.

Another looming issue is the prospect of former ethnic Albanian senior rebel commanders facing prosecution in the newly established international war crimes court in The Hague that is expected to shortly issue indictments for crimes committed against civilians during and after the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

There are three key groupings in the contest:

FORMER REBELS

Three major parties run by former rebel commanders have joined forces to back Ramush Haradinaj for prime minister. Haradinaj briefly served as a prime minister in 2005 but was forced to resign after a U.N. war crimes court put him on trial for crimes allegedly committed during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war with Serbia. He was acquitted twice.

Serbia still regards Haradinaj as a war criminal. Kosovo suspended EU-sponsored talks with Serbia earlier this year after Haradinaj was arrested in France on a warrant from Serbia. A French court refused to extradite him.

Haradinaj claims his coalition is “a new beginning ” and has pledged he will persuade the EU to admit Kosovars to the visa-free regime within 90 days, and also bring fast improvements in the country’s ailing economy.

PEACENICKS

The party of Prime Minister Isa Mustafa has joined forces with billionaire Behxhet Pacolli and Mimoza Kusari-Lila, a former deputy prime minister and trade minister from the Alternativa party. They have proposed the former finance minister, Avdullah Hoti, as a future prime minister.

Hoti boasts that he was successful in fighting corruption and bringing the customs and financial department in line with European standards. He earned a Ph.D. in economics at Staffordshire University in Britain and is a professor at the Pristina University.

NATIONALISTS

The Self-Determination Movement, an aggressively disruptive force in the previous parliament, is the biggest opposition party to shun pre-election coalitions. Self-Determination Movement members and supporters released tear gas inside parliament and threw petrol bombs outside it to protest the contentious deals with Montenegro and Serbia.

The party has nominated its former leader, 42-year-old Albin Kurti, as a candidate for prime minister. Since the 2014 election, Kurti has been at the forefront of opposition forces. If elected, the party says it “is the only one which is going to fight corruption in a successful way,” send former officials to jail, end the current talks with Serbia while seeking a closer union with neighboring Albania.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

Kosovo government loses no-confidence vote, coalition fails

May 10, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s government on Wednesday lost a no-confidence vote, setting the scene for an early election following months of political deadlock over a border demarcation deal that critics say would mean a loss of territory for the tiny Balkan country.

Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s coalition government lost in a 78-34 vote, with three abstentions and five lawmakers not present. The outcome means that the government has collapsed about a year before an election was due.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci formally dissolved the parliament within hours of the vote. He has invited political parties to a consultation, and is now expected to set a date for a parliamentary election within 30 to 45 days. The existing Cabinet will continue to run the country until then.

Opposition parties have blamed Mustafa’s Cabinet for being unable to carry out its program and pass important laws. “The country is badly governed. The country needs a new government,” said Valdete Bajrami of the opposition Initiative for Kosovo party, which proposed the no-confidence motion.

The government has been hobbled by its inability to secure a parliamentary majority to back a border demarcation deal with neighboring Montenegro. The United States has pressed Kosovo to pass a border demarcation deal with neighboring Montenegro, which remains the last obstacle before the European Union accepts to let Kosovar citizens travel visa-free in its Schengen member countries.

The deal was signed in 2015, and Mustafa withdrew a draft ratification bill last year. The opposition has claimed that Kosovo would lose territory under the agreement, an accusation denied by the government and local and international experts.

Before the vote, Mustafa had argued that the consequence of a no-confidence vote would be “the country’s destabilization through creating a lack of trust in institutions, and an institutional vacuum.”

The 2 ½-year-old governing coalition was made up of Mustafa’s Democratic League of Kosovo, which holds the second-largest number of seats in the 120-seat parliament. The Democratic Party of Kosovo of Speaker Kadri Veseli currently has the most members in parliament.

The partnership was formed as a last resort when neither of two parties was able to form a Cabinet on its own after the 2014 parliamentary election. The no-confidence vote suggests a breakdown between the two governing partners. Speaker Veseli posted a tweet on Wednesday afternoon saying Kosovo needs a new beginning and the no-confidence vote would “open exciting new chapters of our history.”

Veseli posted a video message informally launching a parliamentary election campaign, blaming Mustafa for the no-confidence vote. Mustafa responded that his government and party prevented “state degradation and released it from crime claws.”

The United States embassy in Pristina pledged its continuing “steadfast support for Kosovo, its citizens, and its path to full Euro-Atlantic integration.” Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. It is recognized by 114 countries, but not by Serbia.

Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.

Kosovo says French police have detained its former premier

January 04, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — French police have detained Kosovo’s former prime minister based on an arrest warrant issued by Serbia the Kosovo foreign ministry said Wednesday. Ramush Haradinaj, who is also a former guerrilla fighter, was stopped as he flew in to France from Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, on Wednesday.

Kosovo’s government said in a statement it is trying to resolve the matter. It said it considered Serbia’s charges as “illegal, unfair and tendentious.” Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, also a former guerrilla leader and Haradinaj’s friend, described the detention as “unacceptable.”

“We, members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, are proud to have fought against discriminating and criminal laws of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime,” he said on Facebook. Haradinaj was cleared of war crimes charges in two lengthy trials by a U.N. war crimes tribunal. But Serbia accuses him of committing war crimes including kidnappings, torture and killings against Serb civilians when he was a senior rebel commander in western Kosovo during the 1998-99 war.

Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008, although Belgrade has not recognized that. Haradinaj’s party is now in opposition.

Kosovo Parliament elects Hashim Thaci as new president

February 26, 2016

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s Parliament on Friday elected Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci as the country’s new president in the absence of opposition lawmakers who accuse him of being responsible for two deals with Serbia and Montenegro that they reject.

The election committee said Thaci secured 71 votes among the 81 lawmakers that were present in the third round of voting after failing to reach the minimum requirements in the first two rounds. The other candidate, Rafet Rama, got no votes and 10 votes were declared invalid.

Many of the opposition lawmakers in the 120-seat Parliament were suspended from participation after disrupting the legislature with tear gas. Others left and only one remained at the election commission.

“With the greatest pleasure, with the highest responsibility, I will serve to everyone and be willing to cooperate with everyone, including the political parties and every segment of the Kosovan society,” Thaci told The Associated Press.

The opposition has been disrupting the chamber since last September with attacks involving tear gas, pepper spray, whistles and water bottles to reject a deal between Kosovo and Serbia giving more powers to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. In December, the Constitutional Court ruled that the agreement needed to be amended to conform to the constitution.

The opposition also rejects a border demarcation pact with Montenegro. “Someone who has violated the constitution cannot be Kosovo’s president,” the leader of the main opposition Self-Determination Movement Party, Visar Ymeri, said at a news conference.

The prospect of a Thaci-presidency has prompted thousands of opposition supporters to protest in the capital of Pristina, many hundreds of whom have been camping out in tents in the capital’s Skanderbeg Square.

After learning that Thaci won the election, they threw Molotov cocktails and rocks outside Parliament, injuring 21 officers, police said. Police responded with tear gas and water guns to disperse them and five protesters were arrested. Officers also started to remove the tents raised at the Skanderbeg Square and blocked traffic on some streets surrounding Parliament.

Police said they found 39 Molotov cocktails and 38 other bottles with color paint by the tents. Molotov cocktails were also thrown against Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s home, according to police. Meanwhile, hundreds of Thaci’s supporters celebrated his election walking along the capital’s streets holding Kosovo, U.S. and Albanian flags and shouting his name while firecrackers lit the sky.

Many leading figures within the opposition were partners with Thaci — a former guerrilla leader — during the war, but later turned against him, accusing him of being power-hungry and corrupt. Critics also say the 47-year-old, who led the fighters of Kosovo’s successful separatist war against Serbia in 1998-99, is not a unifying individual, which is what the Kosovo constitution requires.

“Thaci’s election has closed that door,” said Fatmir Limaj, one of his former close associates now in opposition, referring to attempts by incumbent President Ahtifete Jahjaga to resolve the political crisis.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, although that is rejected by Serbia. As president, Thaci would deal with a special war crimes court created last year, which will have international judges and prosecutors try ethnic Albanian guerrillas for the alleged killing of civilian detainees, mostly Serbs, immediately after the war ended in 1999.

Thaci was mentioned in a 2010 Council of Europe report which claimed that leaders of the now disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serbs.

Thaci denies the claims. Thaci has resigned as leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo as required for his five-year term.

Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, and Gresa Kraja in Pristina, Kosovo, contributed to this report.

Kosovo opposition lawmakers block Parliament with tear gas

February 19, 2016

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Despite security checks at the entrance, Kosovo opposition lawmakers on Friday again used tear gas to block work from being done in Parliament to pressure the government into renouncing deals with Serbia and Montenegro.

The session, delayed for about 50 minutes, was temporarily suspended Friday after a tear gas canister was launched from opposition lawmakers’ seats. A resumed session an hour later was suspended again for the same reason.

After the use of the tear gas for the third time, Speaker Kadri Veseli, himself wearing an anti-gas mask, could not keep his governing lawmakers from leaving the hall due to the gas. Then police forcefully brought out all opposition lawmakers. One of them, Albulena Haxhiu, fainted while trying to re-enter and clashed with policemen guarding the main entrance.

Veseli said the session will resume, despite the problems. Outside the Parliament a few hundred opposition supporters were gathered shouting anti-government slogans. Opposition lawmakers said they are determined not to allow normal operations at the Parliament, demanding the government’s resignation and fresh elections.

Since September, the opposition has disrupted Parliament with tear gas, pepper spray, whistles and water bottles. They reject a deal between Kosovo and Serbia, reached last year, which gives more powers to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. They are also against a border demarcation deal with Montenegro.

In December, Kosovo’s Constitutional Court decided that part of the deal with Serbia was not in line with the constitution. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci of the governing Democratic Party of Kosovo said the government is determined to continue its daily agenda, considering the use of tear gas as “ugly.”

“Opposition reaction may continue but they should get used to the idea that they cannot come to power by violence,” Thaci said. Kosovo’s Western backers have denounced the violence, calling on the opposition to resolve the political crisis in Parliament.

Kosovo’s 2008 independence has been recognized by 111 countries, including the U.S. and major European Union nations. But it is rejected by Serbia, with support from Russia, which has blocked Kosovo from becoming a U.N. member.

Kosovo and Serbia are holding EU-mediated talks to try to overcome their differences.

Gresa Kraja in Pristina, Kosovo, and Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, contributed to this report.

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