Kosovo: Five years of political impunity culture

Five years after breaking from Serbia, Kosovo is yet to win the ultimate recognition, a seat at the United Nations, hopefully at the end of EU-sponsored dialogue with Belgrade...

Five years after breaking from Serbia, Kosovo is yet to win the ultimate recognition, a seat at the United Nations, hopefully at the end of EU-sponsored dialogue with Belgrade that will happen.

Having declared its independence on February 17, 2008, Kosovo is the newest state in the world. Kosovo, the neighbour of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania; came under the interim administration of the United Nations in 1999. The country, having been under the protection of the United Nations until its declaration of independence, took the first steps toward a brand new future.
by Vedat Xhymshiti
Slobodan Milosevic’s rejection of an internationally-brokered deal to end the crisis, and the persecution of Kosovar Albanians, led to NATO air strikes against targets in Kosovo and Serbia in March 1999.
A campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians was launched by the Serbian authorities. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro and further afield, and thousands died in the war.
Serbian forces were driven out in the summer of 1999 and the UN took over the administration of the territory.
Slavic and Albanian people have lived side by side in Kosovo since the 8th century. The region was the centre of Serbian Empire until it fell under the rule of Ottoman Empire as a result of the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.
The epic Battle of Kosovo heralded 500 years of Turkish Ottoman rule. Over the ensuing decades many Christian Serbs left the region. Over centuries, the religious and ethnic balance tipped in favour of Muslims and Albanians.
Kosovo Security Force parade in Pristina. Feb. 17 ’13
It was not until 1913 that Serbs regained control of Kosovo. The region then became part of the Democratic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The issue of independence began gaining importance in Kosovo after the end of Cold War in 1991. As a result of the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing campaign, the region went under the interim administration of the United Nations until February 18, 2008.
The landlocked country of 2 million people, mostly ethnic Albanians, is among the poorest in Europe, swallowing over €4 billion in aid since the war with Belgrade ended in 1999.
Despite its rich mineral resources, the main source of income is agriculture. In the region, there is an Albanian population of two million. Due to Serbs leaving the region after 1999, there are only 100,000 Serbs left. The Serbian minority lives in closed regions under the administration of the NATO Peacekeeping forces.
Five years after Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, increasingly wary Western donors are keen to wean off the country from foreign aid and take more resolute steps to fight poverty, crime and corruption. However, regarding the fact and files on the Kosovo’s five-year-old nationhood, it seem like foreign investments are being discouraged.
Substantial foreign direct investment, which should be a driving force for economic growth, has failed to materialize in Kosovo amid corruption scandals have led to investigations against several senior government officials, a Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty report said.

Pristina’s landmark Grand Hotel now stands dark and empty in the centre of the capital, just one example of a high-profile privatization delayed by a corruption probe.

PTK telecom’s privatization was pushed back for a second time in January after an investment fund run by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Albright Capital Management, withdrew its bid amid international scrutiny over possible wars of interest and alleged special treatment by Kosovo’s political leaders.
Ilir Deda, executive director of the Kosovo Institute for Policy Research and Development, claims that some members of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s government have driven away potential foreign investors in order to protect their political and business allies from competition.

“It affects enormously the bigger picture. This government has proved quite successful at expelling every serious investor since 2008 who was willing to come here and invest here,” Deda told RFE. “Investors from Austria, Switzerland, and France have complained over corruption where they wanted to invest, regardless of privatization.”
“Any investigation that leads to big political players in Kosovo is stopped for the sake of political stability, and it feeds on the culture of impunity, political impunity, that has been created in Kosovo in the last 12 years,” he said. “Short-term stability is favoured rather than mid or long-term stability.”

The World Bank has said that, like other economies in the western Balkans, speedy recovery for Kosovo is unlikely without improvements in public-sector governance, the labour market, and the overall investment climate.
Half of Kosovo’s 1.8 million people are 25 or younger. Half of those under 30 are unemployed, and the situation is getting worse. Every year, more than 30,000 young people enter the job market. Fewer than 8,000 find work. Kosovo is witnessing widespread poverty and an official unemployment rate of 45 per cent. For this very reason many young people seek to leave Kosovo for Western Europe, mostly by paying €2,000-3,000 to human traffickers.
UN ruling
An Albanian house set on fire by Serbian forces
during ’98/’99 war with Kosovo Albanian Liberation Army.
During July, 2012, The Hague War Crimes Tribunal ordered a new trial for former PM Ramush Haradinaj and two other ex-members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) on charges of war crimes, saying that an earlier trial was marred by witness intimidation. Later, Ramush Haradinaj, the former guerrilla commander in Kosovo who served briefly as prime minister, was acquitted of war crimes on Thursday for a second time, clearing the way for a potential return to government but angering Serbia.
Also, the International Court of Justice rules that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 was not illegal under international law, in response to a complaint from Serbia that it had violated its territorial integrity. In September 2010, President Fatmir Sejdiu resigned after court ruled that he breached the constitution by staying in a party post while in office. In the following month, caretaker President Jakup Krasniqi called for early general elections, as Fatmir Sejdiu’s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) pulled out of governing coalition.
However, in December 2010 Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won a narrow majority in the parliamentary election. Meanwhile, Council of Europe published a report alleging that Kosovo Liberation Army rebels, then
led by Hashim Thaci, were involved in organ trafficking and other crimes after the end of 1999 war with Serbia.
Thaci denies the allegations. Investigations are about to start over the war crime allegations.
In March 2011, Serbia and Kosovo began direct talks to try to end their dispute – the first talks since Kosovo broke away from Serbia.
President Pacolli stepped down after the High Court ruled that the parliament had not been in quorum during his election. Parliament elected senior police officer Atifete Jahjaga to be Kosovo’s first female president in April.
Sources say her name was brought out by an envelope coming from the office of the US ambassador to Kosovo, Christopher Dell, known for political interference in Kosovo and one of the top officials who have violated the freedom of press in several cases during his stay in Pristina’s seat as US diplomatic representative. Many people call him “The King of the Road”.
In October 2012, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic met in Brussels for the first direct political contact between the two governments since Kosovo proclaimed independence in 2008. Kosovar nationalists clashed with police in Prishtina opposing direct talks with Belgrade.
EU auditors said the EU police mission in Kosovo is inefficient and the nation itself remains plagued by organised crime and corruption. Kosovo remains the biggest per-capita recipient of EU aid.
January 2013 – EU-mediated talks resume between Kosovo and Serbia days after parliament in Belgrade approves support for minority Serb rights within Kosovo – a de-facto recognition of Kosovar sovereign territorial integrity.
On 12 February, the European Commission presented its first report on progress by Kosovo towards visa liberalisation. According to the press release, “Kosovo’s current capacity to fight organised crime and corruption remains limited.”
Serbian Gendarmerie disarmed Kosovo Police Force
during last year
Parallel structures
The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that Serbs, who live in northern Kosovo, are increasingly ignoring the authority of Belgrade. They are determined to hold their own political and social life organized by them, although Belgrade has recently advised them against doing so, and Pristina is not willing to use any means that would aim to bring back public order in its northern region.
The problem of northern Kosovo is primarily a political one. For 13 years, North Mitrovica has been governed by Serbian political and economic structures that are financed by Belgrade. The EU’s Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, has little influence in the north of Kosovo.
Kosovo Serbs, backed by Belgrade, reject Kosovo’s 2008 secession and effectively live as if still part of Serbia. Belgrade lost control of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO bombed Serbia to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces fighting a two-year counter-insurgency war.
98 countries, including the United States and 22 of the EU’s 27 members, have recognized the state, the last to emerge from the remains of former Yugoslavia. But Serbia’s ally Russia has blocked a resolution on independence in the United Nations Security Council.

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Vudi Xhymshiti; is an independent journalist, editor and photographer. He is focusing on the issues of the domestic politics of Kosovo, Foreign Policy of the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the Middle East. Xhymshiti is also focused on the issues of the politics of race, gender, identity, migration as well as displacement of people due to climate change and armed conflicts. He has been published in various media including Der Spiegel, NY Times, TIME, Paris Match, Le Monde etc. Xhymshiti is also a print media critic and founder of THE Frontliner.

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