Former Minister of Internal Affairs Agim Veliu. Photo: BIRN.

PM Kurti sacks Minister of Internal Affairs Agim Veliu

Prime Minister Albin Kurti has dismissed interior minister Agim Veliu for supporting the proposal to declare a state of emergency in response to Kosovo’s coronavirus epidemic, contrary to the government’s official position.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Prime Minister Albin Kurti announced that he has taken the decision to sack Kosovo’s Minister of Internal Affairs and Public Administration, Agim Veliu. 

The prime minister stated that Veliu was dismissed for making statements against official government positions on declaring a state of emergency, as well as spreading panic over the coronavirus epidemic in Kosovo. 

On Tuesday, government spokesperson Perparim Kryeziu denounced President Hashim Thaci’s proposal for the Kosovo Assembly to declare a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak, describing it as “extreme” and “an unnecessary cause of panic.”  

However, speaking to television channel Klan Kosova later on Tuesday night, Veliu claimed that the government had not held a meeting on whether to declare a state of emergency. 

“Personally, I am in favour of taking all measures to protect ourselves,” Veliu told Klan Kosova. “It is not a question of whether we are the prime minister or the president, we should be more organised because we are in the service of Kosovo. But yes, a state of emergency must be declared.”

Kurti stated that Veliu’s public statements did not correspond to his positions at internal cabinet meetings, which demonstrated a marked lack of leadership and openly undermined the work of the government.

Kurti also claimed that Veliu had spread panic amongst the population by stating that the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus was increasing “hour by hour.”

“Neither the Ministry of Health nor the National Institute of Public Health has said the number of people infected with COVID-19 was increasing hour by hour,” Kurti’s statement reads. “At this time, when the entire public administration is making every effort to minimise damage from the Coronavirus, leaders of central institutions, including members of the cabinet, must demonstrate prudence in both decisions and statements.”

Since March 13 when the first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Kosovo, a total of 19 citizens have tested positive for the virus.

Veliu was nominated for the position of interior minister by the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, a coalition partner of Kurti’s Vetevendosje in the Kosovo Government. 

Kurti stated that he has informed LDK president Isa Mustafa of his decision and requested the name of a new interior minister. According to Kurti, Vetevendosje’s deputy minister Xhelal Svecla will take all decisions for the ministry until a new minister is appointed.

Speaking to BIRN, Veliu described the decision as “unacceptable and totally unreasonable.”

“It is a sneaky decision that was made without notice and without any discussion,” Veliu said, adding that “measures will be taken” by LDK in the coming days. 

According to Veliu, LDK  has an agreement stating that no minister can be dismissed without prior consultation and the approval of LDK’s leadership. Party president Isa Mustafa told Gazeta Express on Wednesday that LDK objects to the dismissal. 

“Mr Kurti did not consult me, therefore I did not agree to sack Mr Veliu. This is a unilateral action, contrary to the coalition agreement and unacceptable to LDK.”

This article was updated adding Agim Veliu’s response to BIRN.

18/03/2020 - 13:36

18 March 2020 - 13:36

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.