Kosovo president sets 6 October as date for snap parliamentary vote

File photo. President of the Republic of Kosovo Hashim Thaci reacts during an interview at his office in Pristina, Kosovo, 13 June 2019. [Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA/EFE]

Since Kosovo’s government collapsed last week, Western countries expect a new cabinet to relaunch talks between Belgrade and Pristina and make sure these countries lift obstacles for joining the EU in the longer term.

On Thursday Kosovo 89 out of 120 MPs voted to dissolve the parliament and paved the way for an early national election. Outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj had resigned last month facing inquiry over war crimes. On Monday (26 August) Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaçi set 6 October as the date for an early parliamentary election on Monday.

Haradinaj, commander of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army during the Kosovo war in 1998-99, was summoned for questioning to a special court in The Hague for war allegations. Haradinaj resigned before the court hearing on 19 July.

According to his words he was ready to face any accusations but not as a head of the government. Haradinaj claims his innocence, however when the prosecutor interrogated him on 24 July, he remained silent.

This is the second time Haradinaj step down because of the accusations from The Hague. He was indicted by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for former Yugoslavia for the first time in 2005. I total he was cleared three times of war crime charges by the UN tribunal.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called Haradinaj’s resignation a “trick” that could further delay the already bogged-down talks between Belgrade and Pristina.

In the mid of August, The US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy urged Serbia and Kosovo to restart their dialogue on the normalisation which lack any progress and hinder the EU integration process. They explained that states cannot take any action till Serbia and Kosovo signal a willingness to compromise and remove obstacles.

“For Kosovo, that means suspending the tariffs imposed on Serbia. For Serbia, that means suspending the de-recognition campaign against Kosovo,” says the statement.

The key task for a new government is to relaunch talks between Pristina and Belgrade. It collapsed in November when Kosovo imposed 100 % tax on Serbian products. Tax was introduced as a retaliation after Serbian blockade of Kosovo from joining the Interpol as a separate country.

According to Serbia’s trade minister Rasim Ljajić, Serbia has lost €298 million since the tax was introduced.

“That is the direct damage, while the indirect damage will be bigger and it will stem from by the loss of that market for our entrepreneurs,” Ljajić said on Thursday.

The ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Kosovo Philip Kosnett described the creation of a new government as an important step because “a campaign in which candidates offer fresh ideas on talks with Serbia, rule of law, and economic development would ensure Kosovo does not lose even more time in building a foundation for the future.”

EU-led talks will be probably postponed because of the new elections. These talks begun in 2013 and little progress has been made since that time. Serbia is not willing to negotiate unless the 100% tax is abolished, while Kosovo says that it would abolish tax only when Belgrade recognizes Kosovo as sovereign state.

Kosovo to keep tariffs until Serbia grants recognition, insists PM

Kosovo’s prime minister refuses to lift tariffs on imports from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, despite external and internal pressure to back down. EURACTIV Serbia reports.

Polls show that no party will gain enough support to form a government on its own. The last government was a coalition between Haradinaj’s party, the centre-right Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the Social Democratic Initiative (NISMA).

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