Thursday, March 24, 2005



By ignoring international advice to involve all major parties in a new
post-Haradinaj government, the current coalition is taking a big gamble.

By Bekim Zollaku in Prishtina

This week, Kosovo's assembly formally voted to elect a new prime minister,
after Ramush Haradinaj resigned from his post due to the Hague tribunal

On the day he resigned, Haradinaj publicly nominated Bajram Kosumi to take
over and lead a “new” government.

It has become obvious since then that Haradinaj's decision will be carried
out, as his party colleagues lack the courage to analyse whether Kosumi is,
in fact, the right man for the job.

Kosovo's assembly, therefore, will have done nothing except rubber stamp a
decision taken weeks ago by a former prime minister.

By doing so, the assembly is blessing a new captain for an old ship. How far
he will be able to sail with this old ship remains to be seen.

But what is clear is that for the second time in a few months, Kosovo's
leaders have failed to take seriously into consideration the recommendations
of the international community on the formation of a government.

Three months ago, the international community and the European Union made it
clear they favoured a grand coalition, having in mind that this year will be
crucial owing to the likely start of talks on final status.

The idea was that only an inclusive, strong, stable and efficient government
would be in a position to tackle the difficult challenges ahead.

Instead, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, and the Alliance for the
Future of Kosovo, AAK, went ahead and created a narrow coalition, leaving
out two major parties, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and Veton
Surroi's ORA.

The resulting LDK and AKK coalition then went further, by putting forward as
candidate for prime minister a man already under investigation by the Hague
tribunal – a fact that was known to the public when Haradinaj was chosen.

Once more, the international community and the EU warned Kosovo's
institutional and party leaders that they should consider other candidates
but their voices were not heard.

Everyone knows what happened three months later. March saw the indictment
against Haradinaj, followed by his resignation and surrender to the

Thanks to his own calm actions and people's maturity, the situation remained
stable, undermining claims that violence might ensue if the premier was

The emerging situation offered Kosovo's political leaders a fresh chance to
reflect more seriously on the composition of a new government.

The position of the international community and EU was consistent with the
views they had expressed three months earlier. Again, they sought a broad
coalition government.

To make sure the leaders in Kosovo heard their voice, the EU sent Javier
Solana, the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, to deliver
the message in person.

At the same time, Kosovo's opposition parties once more argued for the
formation of a broader coalition government. Again, their will was ignored.

The decision-makers did not heed any of these recommendations, arguing that
it was in Kosovo's interest to carry on with the old, narrow LDK-AAK

A blind desire to retain all the power in their hands prevailed against the
argument that this was the time for national unity.

Some officials have defended the LDK-AAK coalition by saying it was created
"purely out of the will of the political parties involved" (in other words,
it was not created by external pressures). This is fair enough, but those
officials fail to mention what lay behind this "will of the parties".

Analysts have identified several factors. One was a desire to avoid charges
being made against Haradinaj through the simple expedient of making him
prime minister. Supporters of this idea failed to realise the tribunal would
not be affected by such factors.

The second was the desire of the two coalition parties to grab most of the
national "cake" for themselves.

As things stand now, the first reason for keeping the coalition going has
vanished. The second, however, still stands and underpins the coalition's
continuing survival.

Another set of arguments in favour of the current coalition is that
government ministers feel able to carry on even without the personal
presence of Haradinaj.

They fail to understand that the cornerstone of the coalition was Haradinaj
himself. Without his wisdom and sense of leadership, their will power alone
will not suffice.

The most comic argument that government officials have put forward in favour
of the current coalition involves a comparison they like to draw between the
achievements of the LDK-AAK coalition and those of its predecessor, led by
Bajram Rexhepi.

One wonders what they mean when they claim that the LDK-AAK government did
more in three months than Rexhepi's government did in three years.

In fact, the progress recorded under Rexhepi's broad coalition government
was fundamental to all the positive events that followed.

Rexhepi's government was inclusive, comprising a number of Serb
representatives, and it opened a dialogue on practical matters with Serbia
and an internal dialogue with the Serbs in Kosovo.

It had established all the working groups needed to implement the standards
plan and had set a time frame for the start of talks on final status. It
had, in fact, paved the way towards EU integration.

If the immediate goal of Kosovo is independence from Serbia and the ultimate
goal is EU integration, it should be of concern to Kosovars that their
leaders have started turning their backs on advice coming from the
international community.

In spite of that, the high-risk show that opened three months ago is about
to enter its second act. While Kosovo's citizens seem confused, both the
opposition and the international community remain pessimistic members of the

Only those who are running this performance seem enthusiastic about it
carrying on. "Do not disturb," they say – just sit back and enjoy the show!

Bekim Zollaku is Assistant Lecturer at the Political Department of the
University of Pristina and was formerly political advisor to prime minister
Bajram Rexhepi.

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