A contract worth 35,000 euros has been signed between the Office of the President and the Walker Foundation, a body set up by William Walker, the former head of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission who has previously been a strong critic of President Thaci.
BIRN has obtained a copy of a contract between the Office of the President of Kosovo and the Walker Foundation, which was founded in 2017 by Hasan Salihu and William Walker, the Head of the OSCE’s Kosovo Verification Mission in 1999.
The five-month contract for consultancy services started in August 2020 and is worth 7,000 euros per month, a bill footed by the Kosovo taxpayer. The foundation is tasked with providing expertise on Kosovo’s international image, its diplomatic efforts and its Euro-Atlantic integration.
The contract states that: “the service provider […] will provide advanced expertise in matters that include, but are not limited to, the following: Kosovo’s internal and external representation, expansion and strengthening of Kosovo’s relations with other states, strengthening the democratic functioning of institutions of the Republic of Kosovo, and advancing economic initiatives and the integration of Kosovo in Euro-Atlantic structures.”
The agreement is set to expire in December 2020, with the option to extend for another six months if the presidency requires further consultation from the Walker Foundation. It was signed between the Office of the President and the Walker Foundation, and was negotiated without a public procurement process.
Strict confidentiality agreements are also contained within the contract. “During the contract and after its expiry, the service provider is not allowed to disclose confidential information regarding work duties, the subject of this contract, or activities of the Office of the President of Kosovo, without a written approval from the Cabinet of the President,” it states.
When contacted by BIRN, the Walker Foundation declined to further comment on the nature of the consultancy it is providing to President Thaci. Hasan Salihu, an executive director at the foundation, told BIRN that the nature of the services provided could not be made public. “The conditions of the contract oblige us to keep this information confidential,” he said.
However, Salihu did tell BIRN that Walker is often directly involved in the consultancy provided by the foundation. “Usually, all the reports, advice and other professional activities are prepared by Ambassador William Walker,” he said.
Walker, the former head of the OSCE’s Kosovo Verification Mission, has previously had a fractured relationship with current Kosovo President Hashim Thaci. In 2010, he accused Thaci of profiting from corruption during his tenure as prime minister, while publicly backing Albin Kurti and Vetevendosje.
Later, in an interview with RTV Dukagjini in 2017, Walker stated that he had previously felt tricked into appearing with the president publicly, adding that Thaci “is a handsome man, but I do not admire him – the only thing Thaci knows how to do is to keep the internationals happy.”
Walker often visits Kosovo in January to commemorate the Recak massacre, which he declared a crime against humanity in 1999 after visiting the scene the following day. His 2020 trip saw him accept an invitation to the president’s office.
In a press conference following the meeting, Walker publicly thanked and shook hands with the president, while Thaci stated that Walker’s criticism was always meant with good intentions.
“Certainly Ambassador Walker has been a critic of those of us who are in politics, but his criticisms have always been welcome, as it improved us, even me personally,” Thaci said. “Therefore, even when he criticized us, we loved him, respected and valued his work and commitment for the people and the state of Kosovo.”
14 September 2020 - 11:20