Albin Kurti during the interview at Jeta ne Kosove. Photo: Atdhe Mulla.

Kurti on LDK: ‘I can’t put more on the table than the people gave them’

Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti stated that the deal for a coalition government with LDK is ‘ready’ during an interview for BIRN’s televised program ‘Jeta ne Kosove’ on Thursday, as well as outlining his top priorities for governance once the coalition is formed.

In an interview for BIRN’s televised program ‘Jeta ne Kosove’ on Thursday, leader of Vetevendosje and likely next prime minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, expressed his hopes of ending the current standstill in his party’s efforts to form the next coalition government alongside the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK. 

More than nine weeks after the two former opposition parties finished in first and second place at October 6’s parliamentary elections, proceedings have still not begun to form the next government, despite discussions over a coalition beginning more than two months ago.

Kurti stated that the deal to form the government is ready, with both parties having agreed that the 12 planned governmental ministries will be split in half between the coalition partners, who will each lead five ministries. According to Kurti, the two further ministries will be led by ministers selected by parties representing Kosovo’s ethnic minorities, and at least four ministries will be led by women. 

Kurti also said that his party have agreed that the Speaker of the Assembly and the first deputy prime minister will be representatives chosen by LDK. However, according to Kurti, LDK are also insisting on discussing the future of the presidency of Kosovo, with the position of president set to become vacant after April 2021. 

For the Vetevendosje leader, this is a step too far. “I cannot put more on the table than the people gave to them,” Kurti said. “I cannot step over the people’s [will].”

During the interview, Kurti repeatedly asserted that the coalition should sign a deal for governing the country without bringing the presidency into the discussion. He also expressed sympathy for the view that the president should have no party political background, ensuring a figure that unites the people.

“If you read the constitution, it says that the president should be non-partisan to represent the unity of the people, and I believe that we should seek someone who belongs to everyone and not a single party,” Kurti said, adding that Vetevendosje have not offered any potential candidate for the position of president.

The Vetevendosje leader also believes that disagreements over the presidency will be resolved more easily once the parties begin to govern together. “I believe that it is easier to decide on the president after a year when we will be together in government, rather than now when our cooperation has not been tested,” he said.

Kurti added that the issue of the presidency was in no way as pressing as the need to form Kosovo’s next government. “There is no urgency for this, the urgent issue is forming the government,” he said. “I am not saying that we cannot open such a topic in the future, but we cannot put the cart before the horse.”

Domestic issues ‘take priority’ over dialogue with Serbia

For Kurti, the two biggest priorities of the upcoming government will be employment and justice, rather than Kosovo’s long-standing issues with its northern neighbor. 

“The dialogue with Serbia is not in the top two main priorities,” Kurti said, labeling socio-economic issues as his main focus. Asked whether he would be under pressure from the international community to finalize an agreement with Serbia, Kurti said that he “didn’t feel the pressure.”

On the economy, the Vetevendosje leader outlined a plan that connects various aspects of governance. “We see employment as being connected to reforms in education, combating crime and corruption, and investments in the economy, all of which will be aided by the Development Bank,” he said. “This will result in a decrease in poverty.”

On education, Kosovo’s prime minister-in-waiting urged for patience among the electorate. “Education has been a top priority since the beginning, but it will not see as fast results as in other fields,” he said. “We intend to keep our best students within the education system and to especially pay attention to secondary schools, which need a refreshment.”

A strike organized by the United Trade Union for Education, Science and Culture began on Friday at the Ismail Qemajli School in Prishtina, with other trade unions in the health sector and the Kosovo Police also expressing discontent this week at the current state of the Law on Salaries. 

Kurti said he would welcome discussions with the trade unions and is open to starting negotiations to amend the law. “I will cooperate directly with the unions, I will not have an intermediary, we have to explain and understand each other,” he said. “I am not saying that we won’t have disagreements, but I am not the kind of person who is allergic to strikes and protests.”

The Vetevendosje leader addressed the problem of using lignite as Kosovo’s main energy source, stating that Kosovo’s reliance on its coal-fired power plants, Kosova A and Kosova B, is unsustainable. “Currently, coal is the necessary evil that we need to be free of, and the faster we do so, the better. We need to look into the possibility of getting rid of it,” he said.

According to Kurti, he and his party still have a lot to learn when it comes to issues related to the environment. “Just as I had to read up on economic issues while I was in jail in Serbia and after the liberation of Kosovo, now it seems I need to read about the environment. The environment is synonymous with our health, and health is synonymous with the future. What else can I add?”

Vetevendosje’s election manifesto did not include scrapping the coal-fired power plants. Kurti promised instead to invest in revitalizing the old power plants and reducing pollution, explaining that he sees no other alternative to replace the energy deficit that would result from their closure. While planning to maintain Kosovo’s existing power plants, Vetevendosje promised to withdraw from the contract the outgoing government concluded with ContourGlobal to construct a new coal-fired power plant, Kosova e Re.

Confronted with calls to increase transparency in central governance processes, Kurti promised that the government will have a spokesperson who will provide weekly briefs on progress in governmental activity, and pledged that the public will have open access to all documents related to government spending.

“I think it is necessary to be public, as the people of Kosovo have entrusted the [country’s] wallet to us,” he said. “We are managing it, we are not the owners of the wallet.”

13/12/2019 - 13:25

13 December 2019 - 13:25

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