Thaci or Hoti, that is the question…

Foto: exit.al

„The government will be negotiating in the dialogue, and the government answers to the Assembly, while the president, based on constitutional competencies, represents the country,“ reads the government program of Avdullah Hoti, which was adopted yesterday, Pristina-based Koha reports.

According to Pristina-based Koha, „the government of Avdullah Hoti thus gave President Hashim Thaci what he asked for on the second day on duty“ – the opportunity to negotiate with Serbia.

The general opinion among the Kosovo public is that the new government of Avdullah Hoti (LDK) was created under the political auspices of Hashim Thaci, to remove reciprocity measures that are blocking the dialogue with Serbia. Part of the LDK coalition agreement with Srpska Lista, as well as Hoti’s government program, includes the commitment to continue the dialogue and abolish the so-called reciprocity measures, which practically halted the import of goods from Serbia, to smooth relations with the USA and the EU that are making these demands.

In fact, the continuation of the dialogue is no longer called into question, but the public debate is slowly moving to another issue – who will be leading the dialogue on behalf of Kosovo’s institutions.

On the one hand, in his first interview for the Kosovo public service, Hoti said that he would be the one to negotiate on behalf of Kosovo and that one of the first official talks he had before officially becoming prime minister was a telephone conversation with the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak. He repeated the same thing last night, underlining that the government would be leading the dialogue under the supervision of the Assembly, but also that it would be unconstitutional for the president to be the one to lead the dialogue.

On the other hand, the President of Kosovo stated at the time that he would not participate in the negotiations led by Miroslav Lajcak because this Slovak diplomat comes from one of the five EU countries that did not recognize Kosovo.

The issue of negotiators raised at the beginning of last year

The Kosovo President, Hashim Thaci first became Kosovo’s chief negotiator in Brussels in October 2012, when he served as Prime Minister – a position he held until March 2014. Thaci is also a signatory of the First Agreement on the Normalization of Relations. From February 2015 to the end of the 2017 mandate, he was replaced by the then Prime Minister, Isa Mustafa, who, among other things, is also a signatory of the agreement on the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities.

Mustafa was then replaced by Ramush Haradinaj. Haradinaj himself said that he was not interested in dialogue, which again opened the space for Thaci to take on the role of the leading negotiator.

This was the case until the end of 2018 – when a conflict took place between Haradinaj and Thaci over Haradinaj’s belief that Thaci made a land swap agreement with President Vucic with the mediation of the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama.

In an effort to prevent the implementation of such an agreement, Haradinaj first introduced the 100% taxes on imports of goods from Serbia and later proposed a so-called state negotiating team composed of leaders of Kosovo’s parliamentary parties to take over the negotiating role from the president.

This team was boycotted by the then opposition parties – LDK and Self-Determination (LVV). At the end of 2019, the two parties – now former coalition partners whose government took three months to be formed, but remained in power for only a month and a half – worked to overthrow Haradinaj’s government, using the Law on Dialogue, which prescribed the obligations of the „state dialogue team,“ as one of their political weapons.

It was the LDK and LVV who sent the disputed law to the Kosovo Constitutional Court for constitutional review and the Constitutional Court first suspended its implementation and then declared the law unconstitutional.

In addition to thwarting Haradinaj’s attempts to take control of the negotiations, however, the same decision on unconstitutionality incited a new debate.

The decision of the Constitutional Court read that the president „represents the unity of the people and is a legitimate representative of the country inside and outside the country.“

While the president has the authority to implement the law and policies, it is the government that has the „authority to propose and implement domestic and foreign policy.“

Many people in Kosovo interpreted the court’s wording as stipulating that only the government can lead negotiations.

Since this decision was made, there have been no successful attempts to bring the Pristina and Belgrade sides closer in the negotiations, so there has been no opportunity for it to be implemented in practice.

Von Cramon-Taubadel: Who could enlighten me what does it mean?

The European Parliament rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon-Taubadel also reacted to Koha’s interpretation of the controversial part of the program of the Avdullah Hoti-led government.

“Who could enlighten me what does it mean? Who in Kosovo is in charge of negotiations, for the dialogue with Serbia? I thought according to the constitution it‘s supposed to be the Prime Minister? Hasn’t he announced this yesterday to present a team?” she tweeted last night.

 

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