En revolusjon, i Kosovo


Skrevet av Ørjan Johansen

Albin Kurthi har nylig vunnet valget i Kosovo og vil tiltre som Kosovos statsminister. Han vil gjenomføre store endringer i landet som har slitt med problemer siden de løsrev seg fra det som tidligere var Jugoslavia, og de senere år det mer begrensede, Serbia. Mannen har vært fengslet og forfulgt av myndighetene i en årrekke. Interessant for forumets medlemmer er at generalsekretær i Kurthis parti, Vlora, tidligere var styremedlem i Internasjonalt Forum. Hun er utdannet jurist fra UiO. ARTIKKELEN er hentet fra politico.eu:


Albin Kurti doesn’t think he just won an election. He says it was a revolution.

Kurti, a former protester, prisoner and provocateur, is poised to become prime minister of Kosovo after his Self-Determination Movement came first in a parliamentary election in October.

Inspired by leftist anti-colonial movements in the developing world, Kurti’s organization is quite different from the parties that have ruled Kosovo and other Balkan states in recent decades. And his stated aim is to smash their model of governing — a system of endemic cronyism and corruption, coupled with close ties to organized crime.

If the 44-year-old succeeds, he could encourage similar movements across the Balkans, posing a rare challenge to political elites forged in the conflicts of the 1990s.

“We are launching a new era where the government is aware that it doesn’t have its own money, but that it just manages the people’s money,” Kurti said in an interview at his movement’s headquarters in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. “This new culture of good governance is the key to our revolutionary victory, which I believe is the day when the future started for Kosovo.”

Kurti pledges to put an end to a system under which “people were surviving on the basis of nepotism and party alliances.”

How Kurti fares will be pivotal in determining not only the future of Kosovo but also its frozen conflict with northern neighbor Serbia. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade regards the territory as a renegade province. If relations between the two sides deteriorate, the stability and reputation of the whole Western Balkan region are likely to take another hit.

Nothing Kurti says he wants to achieve will be easy. Neither he nor his party have ever run a national government. And the elites that have ruled Kosovo’s political scene, with their deep networks across public institutions, will not quietly roll over and cede power

An EU-backed dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade broke down in acrimony more than a year ago. A shadow hangs over the whole Western Balkans after the EU this year rebuffed bids from North Macedonia and Albania to start membership talks.

Kurti, however, argues that his movement’s policies will have a positive trickle-down effect, improving public services and fostering public rejection of corruption. He pledges to put an end to a system under which “people were surviving on the basis of nepotism and party alliances.”

“I believe that we have nothing to fear,” Kurti said. “That is why a radical transparency is the way to go, in order to have the support of the people.»

Since he got involved in politics some two decades ago, Kurti has been imprisoned by Serbia and placed under house arrest by Kosovan authorities. He has thrown tear gas grenades inside Kosovo’s parliament and been shunned by Western governments for fierce criticism of international officials and for advocating a referendum on merging Kosovo with neighboring Albania.

Kurti toned down much of that radicalism during the election campaign ended with his movement winning more than 26 percent of the vote. The movement has since been in coalition talks with a traditional party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, on forming a government. Those talks have been bumpy but look set to produce a coalition in the new year, with Kurti at the helm.

Since his election victory, Western ambassadors in Kosovo have embraced Kurti and he has been on a tour of key European capitals to meet senior officials.

But he insists he will take a new approach to Kosovo’s relations with the Western powers who led the 1999 NATO bombing campaign that ended Serb repression of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and who have exerted strong influence on the territory’s governments ever since.

“We are going to change this by rejecting the two radical positions, that with the international community you can be either servile or acrimonious,” Kurti told POLITICO.

“There was an attitude of servility that characterized previous governments because we had corrupt officials and party leaders who wanted to please the demand of every possible international [official] in return for immunity for criminal prosecution for their illegally obtained wealth.”

Early activism

Kurti began his activism as a student at the peak of the crackdown on Kosovo Albanians by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević in the waning days of socialist Yugoslavia.

His first protest was in 1997, against Serbian authorities for barring ethnic Albanian students from attending public high schools and universities.

In the midst of the NATO bombing of 1999, Serb forces detained Kurti, his father and two younger brothers, who were all later  convicted on charges relating to his activism. Kurti spent two years and seven months in prison.

“When I got sentenced to 15 years, I thought I would never get out again,” he recalled. “The first night we were there, one prisoner died from torture. Usually people who died were older people or somebody who had health problems. But they beat and tortured all of us.”

Kurti has pledged to push hard to establish the rule of law, making the state prosecutor the best-known person in Kosovo rather than any politician.

While Kurti was in prison in Serbia, Kosovo took first steps to establish a state independent of Serbian rule. During that volatile and sometimes lawless period, U.N. officials and NATO peacekeepers initially took charge, before organizing elections and handing power to local politicians, many from the Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla group that fought Serb rule.

Kurti argues that many mistakes were made during this time, including questionable privatizations that made some individuals very rich while making tens of thousands jobless in one of the poorest corners of Europe.

“We had gone from an oppressive regime to chaos,» Kurti said.

“We had brutal privatization,» he added. «They told us: ‘Free market, equal opportunities for all. This is what freedom is.’”

His movement’s name reflects the idea that Kosovo’s citizens have never been truly free to determine their own future — due to Serb repression and then due to international rule and the «capture» of the state by corrupt elites.

Western diplomats strongly object to that thesis, arguing that their countries’ troops risked their lives to stabilize Kosovo and that foreign governments have invested heavily in building up fledgling democratic institutions.

Kurti has pledged to push hard to establish the rule of law, making the state prosecutor the best-known person in Kosovo rather than any politician.

Yet his biggest challenge may lie in managing relationships with Serbia and with Kosovo’s own Serb minority.

“As prime minister, I will owe all the citizens of Kosovo,” Kurti said when asked about the territory’s Serbs, who maintain strong ties to Belgrade. “For the vast majority of the people of Kosovo, two major concerns are the same — jobs and justice.”

As for Kurti’s domestic agenda, the whole of the Balkans will be watching closely.

But most Serbs living in Kosovo do not see themselves as citizens of the young state and would rather remain part of Serbia. Currently, the only way to engage with them politically is through Belgrade — an idea that is anathema to Kurti.

“Kosovo isn’t a problem in whose solution we should include Serbia. Kosovo has a problem and its name is Serbia,” he said.

When it comes to dealing with Belgrade on the question of Kosovo’s status, Kurti at least has a couple of things going for him with Serbia’s leaders and public opinion. “He doesn’t have any blood on his hands, unlike his predecessors who were part of the war effort, and he is not corrupt,” said Milivoje Mihajlović, a journalist and political analyst based in Belgrade.

As for his domestic agenda, the whole of the Balkans will be watching closely.

«If successful in Kosovo, this type of politics could also permeate political environments in the region,» said Shpetim Gashi, a policy analyst at the Council for Inclusive Governance, a U.S.-based NGO.

Should Kurti be able to crack down on corruption and boost rule of law, it would «speed up the democratic transition in the region,” Gashi said.

“Of course, if he does what he says he will,” he added.