Kosovo workers on strike

This Associated Press video says about itself:

Workers march in Kosovo to demand better rights

(1 May 2018) Hundreds of protesters gathered on Tuesday in Kosovo‘s capital to demand better workers’ rights. Marching on Pristina’s Mother Teresa Boulevard, they demanded the government address issues including pension rights and better safety for construction workers.

Local activist Kushtrim Mehmeti said that in the past two years there had been at least one death per month of construction workers at work. “This is not just alarming, this is a war zone,” he said.

One of the youngest countries in the Balkans, Kosovo is also one of the poorest. According to the Riinvest Institute for Development Research, an independent research institute, in 2017 Kosovo had a 49 percent unemployment rate, of which 40 percent are between the ages of 16 and 24.

By Paul Mitchell:

Strike wave hits Kosovo

6 February 2019

Kosovo has been hit by a strike wave with workers demanding better wages and conditions and opposing a new salaries law.

The strikes are the beginning of a resurgence of the class struggle in the Balkans. Along with the last Assembly elections in 2017—in which the turnout was just 41 percent—they indicate growing disaffection with the “independent” regime created in 2008, following the bloody imperialist-backed war of 1998-99 and run by corrupt former Kosovo Liberation Army figures.

Life for workers and youth remains desperate. Wages, averaging €360 ($410) a month, are among the lowest in Europe. Unemployment is around 30 percent (youth unemployment is over 50 percent) and a similar percentage of the population lives in poverty. Nearly 10 percent are recorded as living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than €1.70 ($1.90) a day.

Over the last weeks, virtually the entire public sector has experienced industrial action. Healthcare workers ended 2018 with a two-day nationwide strike and surgeons continued their action into January, demanding they be treated the same as judges and prosecutors who saw their salaries doubled last year by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Haradinaj doubled his own salary and those of his cabinet members at the same time.

Imri Jashari, director of the Cardiology Clinic at the Kosovo University Clinical Center, told reporters about the “miserable” conditions for experienced doctors, who earn just €600 per month. “There is huge dedication and great investment by healthcare workers, while on the other hand the appreciation of our society and state for this category [of work] is just miserable,” Jashari said.

Miners staged a nine-day strike from January 3 to demand a 20 percent pay rise and only agreed a temporary return to work pending talks with the Ministry for Economic Development.

Teachers began a stoppage on January 14, seeking a 30 percent pay rise at all education levels. Sejdi Rexhepi, a professor of economics at Pristina University, said the new salaries law “may lower the salaries of some teachers… By our calculations, a regular professor will have a fall in salary of €100—and, depending on their academic title, some salaries may fall by up to €200.”

Last Friday—the day before the law was passed in the Kosovo Assembly—the head of the Union of Education, Culture and Science of Kosovo (SBASHK), Rrahman Jasharaj, announced an agreement with the government claiming it “has brought us closer to our demands, so congratulations to all, the school year will commence on Monday.” SBASHK deputy head, Vjollca Shala, disagreed, saying “As for now, there is no deal reached, and the moment that we reach an agreement, we will release a communiqué.”

Municipal workers in the capital Pristina have been on strike and others in Mitrovica, Vushtria/Vucitrn and Rahovec/Orahovac and elsewhere have warned of possible strikes over their 30 percent pay claim. Union leader Mehmet Bajrami said the new salary law could actually lower their pay by up to 40 percent.

The union representing workers at Kosovo Telecom has warned of strikes if their salaries are cut. Once the most profitable company in Kosovo, it has been starved of around €500 million in investment since 2010 when the government, then led by Hashim Thaci, now Kosovo’s president, said it would be privatised. Talks on finding a new owner are continuing.

Workers in the energy sector, airport control and customs have threatened to strike.

The Kosovan government is determined to prevent workers seeking to overturn years of stagnant or declining wages. Erol Belegu, one of Haradinaj’s advisers, said large pay increases would starve the country of investment. “We have already had criticism from the IMF [International Monetary Fund] that the budget is heavily weighed down by salaries.”

In December, the IMF, following its last visit to “advise” the Kosovo government what to do, insisted, “To lower wage and non-wage cost and improve productivity, it is critical to restrain wage and social benefit growth… Fiscal initiatives such as the public salary law and excessively generous maternity/parental benefits, as well as a large minimum wage hike, would not only be costly but also undermine these efforts, providing another reason why they should be avoided or redesigned.”

The IMF, warning that a further onslaught is in the offing, declared, “structural challenges remain largely undented, and should be at the forefront of the policy agenda… plans to restructure public enterprises need to move ahead.”

The IMF has been offering such prescriptions for nearly two decades, but Kosovo, a country of just 1.8 million people with abundant natural resources, remains an economic, social and political disaster.

The country is a product of the tragic consequences of the deliberately engineered break-up of the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s by the major imperialist powers, particularly the US and Germany. Serbia was targeted as the regional power considered the main obstacle to the West’s control over an area of geo-strategic interest. Russia’s influence in the region had to be rolled back.

The resulting civil war and new ethnically-based states proved incapable of providing a progressive solution to the problems facing the Balkan people. Kosovo, the protectorate of the Western powers, became the most glaring example of the subservient status of these new states.

Following the 2008 financial crash, the European Union’s promise of membership as part of moves to keep the Balkan countries firmly on side against Russia floundered. No one now talks about a date for Kosovo to join the EU.

Moreover, the concept of a union in Europe has been thrown into crisis with the impoverishment of Greece through EU savage austerity, Britain’s vote to exit the EU, and the Trump administration’s attacks both on the EU and on Germany in particular, as a trade competitor.

Kosovo remains in limbo over its attempts to gain international recognition. Some 90 out of 193 nations refuse to recognise the 2008 declaration of independence, including UN Security Council members Russia and China, Serbia and five EU members—Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania—who fear the precedent the border changes might set for their own countries. Last November, the boast by Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli that Kosovo’s bid to join the global policing body Interpol would be successful, was dashed.

Kosovo’s relationship with Serbia remains at a knife-edge. At one moment there is talk of a land swap, at another trade war blows up with threats of a military war.

The declaration of independence left some 120,000 Serbs as a minority around Mitrovica in Kosovo’s north, which continues to function as a de-facto independent enclave. About 50,000 ethnic Albanians remain in the Presevo Valley in Serbia’s south.

Last year, Thaci raised the possibility of an exchange of territory between Kosovo and Serbia in an article published in the Financial Times and supported in an editorial. Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, made it known that Washington “would not weigh in” on the matter. However, such an exchange could have profoundly negative repercussions throughout the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia which is divided into a mosaic of ethnic cantons.

In November 2018, a trade war broke out when the Kosovan government imposed a 100 percent customs tariff on goods coming from Serbia. Haradinaj declared he would only reverse the tax if Serbia discontinued its “campaign against Kosovo’s aspiration as a sovereign state.”

In December, tensions escalated further when the Kosovan Assembly voted to transform the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into a regular army. The Serbian government called the decision the “most direct threat to peace and stability in the region” and warned that armed intervention was “one of the options on the table.”

3 thoughts on “Kosovo workers on strike

  1. Pingback: Kosovo workers on strike | Spirituality Today with Dr. Carolyn Reinhart

  2. Pingback: NATO-Yugoslavia war, prelude to more bloodshed | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. In view of the recent events in Kosovo IFIMES has analysed the current political situation of this country, including Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s resignation and his questioning before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (KSC-SPO). The most interesting and relevant sections from the comprehensive analysis entitled “Kosovo 2019 early parliamentary election: A new chance for decriminalisation of Kosovo?”are published below.

    Kosovo 2019 early parliamentary election:

    A new chance for decriminalisation of Kosovo?

    Kosovo has been thrown in a deep political crisis ever since its incumbent government was formed in September 2017. Ramush Haradinaj’s government is composed of the PAN coalition gathered around Kadri Veseli’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), the Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma) led by Fatmir Limaj and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AKR) led by Behgjet Pacolli with the support of the Serbian list and the deputies of other minority communities in Kosovo. It is speculated that the coalition majority required for the formation of government was achieved through buying and selling of deputies’ votes.

    Kosovo citizens are mostly dissatisfied and apathetic about the fact that the Prime Minister is a man with so many burdens from the past and whose AAK party holds only 10 out of 120 seats in the Kosovo Assembly, while his Deputy and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pacolli with his Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AKR) only has two seats in the Assembly.

    Despite the traditional rivalry between Ramush Haradinaj (AAK) and Hashim Thaçi (PDK) the two sides managed to unite in the coalition with the main aim to prevent Albin Kurti and his Self-Determination Movement (LVV- Vetëvendosje) from forming the government in which Kurti, who won most votes among all the prime minister candidates, would be the leader.

    Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office – the key for Kosovo’s future

    The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (KSC-SPO) were established in 2015, but only started to operate in July 2017 after the Rules of Procedure and Evidence entered into force for the conduct of proceedings before the Chambers. The Specialist Chambers were supposed to be an answer to the claims and the report drawn up by the Council of Europe special rapporteur Dick Marti about human organ trafficking, and were also meant as an additional impetus to start “de-Thaçisation“ of Kosovo, i.e. the dismantling of Thaçi regime, and to achieve internal consolidation of Kosovo by releasing political tensions, which is all vital for the future of this country.

    With its head office in the Hague, KSC-SPO is a part of the Kosovo court system. It has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes in relation to the allegations from the 2011 report the Council of Europe.

    That report stated that those crimes were allegedly committed between 1998 and 2000 by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (OVK- UÇK). The Chambers have jurisdiction over crimes that occurred in Kosovo between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2000. Despite being a part of the Kosovo jurisdiction, the Chambers are financed by the EU and staffed with international judges, prosecutors and staff.

    One of the reasons for locating the Chambers in the Hague instead of leaving them in Kosovo was to prevent the risk of witness intimidation since “this is a sensitive issue in Kosovo. Possible suspects may be seen by sections of Kosovan society as freedom fighters, and witnesses may feel threatened in Kosovo,” as the Kingdom of the Netherlands Government explained already in 2016.

    The question is why not a single indictment has been filed before the Chambers yet?

    Analysts believe that by carrying out its tasks the Chambers would resolve many issues and initiate the so called Brussels dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina which is now at a standstill. The fact is that the EU has lost control over this process. It needs a new approach and a new idea on how to lead that dialogue. The question is whether certain international circles are so corrupt that they are blocking the work of the Specialist Chambers which are to trial some of Kosovo’s leading politicians including Kosovo’s incumbent President Hashim Thaçi, President of the Kosovo Assembly Kadri Veseli, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and many other high officials. By delaying the start of the Chambers’ work they are actually undermining the future of Kosovo and delaying the granting of EU visa-free regime for Kosovo citizens.

    Haradinaj invoked his right to silence at the hearing before KSC-SPO

    On 19 July 2019, Ramush Haradinaj announced his resignation as prime minister after being summoned for questioning as a suspect before KSC-SPO in the Hague. As he said, he resigned in order to protect Kosovo. His questioning before the Special Chambers in the Hague took place on 24 July 2019. Contrary to his frequent statements that he would always protect Kosovo, he accepted legal advice not to answer any questions at the hearing, which meant he protected himself rather than Kosovo and its Liberation Army (OVK- UÇK).

    Haradinaj explained that he did not want to take his country before the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, so he resigned in order to preserve the honour of his country and the honour of the prime minister.

    According to the law on Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office the suspect has the right to be informed that there are grounds to believe that he or she has committed a crime within the jurisdiction of the Specialist Chambers and the right to remain silent, without such silence being considered in the determination of guilt or innocence.

    Haradinaj’s resignation is nothing but manipulation, as it is clear that he is questioned before the Chambers due to his personal liability and that the government and the state of Kosovo are not held as suspects in this case. He is well aware of that, having been tried twice before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague and acquitted in both cases. However, his acquittal was due to the lack of evidence or key witnesses who were assassinated under unclear circumstances during the court proceedings.

    Wishing to remain Prime Minister Haradinaj even addressed the Constitutional Court of Kosovo to explain the situation caused by his resignation. He is trying to legalise the position of technical Prime Minister and thus to ensure the possibility of using public funds for the campaign for the forthcoming early parliamentary election. The Kosovo Central Election Commission has only nine instead of eleven members, since two of its members are missing.

    The controversial Haradinaj strongly opposed the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro when he was in the opposition, while he voted in favour of that agreement when he was in the government.

    Haradinaj’s Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) is a small political party which can only strengthen its position through scandals and at the detriment of PDK. That is why the government illegally imposed 100-percent customs tariffs on imports from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each government should follow the European rules and respect the signed international agreements. The newly imposed import tariffs in Kosovo therefore represented a blatant violation of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).

    Hashim Thaçi – a symbol of the political-criminal octopus

    While Ramush Haradinaj (AAK) holds the strongest operational position in Kosovo as its Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi (PDK) represents a symbol of the political-criminal octopus. Thaçi’s power is further strengthened through alliance with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (PS) and his regime, which has set up a criminal empire in Albania with deep international roots and which often uses Kosovo as a path to extend its tentacles to the region.

    The government led by Hashim Thaçi and his clan is characterised by nepotism, intimidation of political opponents and citizens, pressures on the media, racketing, crime, non-transparency and corruption in every sphere of Kosovo’s society. A specially worrying trend is massive emigration of the young generation and the working age population. The government of Kosovo has not managed to stop this negative trend. Organised crime and corruption represent a serious threat to Kosovo’s society. The incumbent government has further aggravated the crisis and increased citizens’ dissatisfaction.

    According to the 2018 corruption index from Transparency International, Kosovo is ranked 93rd of all together 180 countries which were included in the survey on corruption, thus occupying the same position as Guyana, Gambia, Mongolia and Panama (Source: Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2018).

    According to the Reporters Without Borders assessment of media freedom Kosovo ranks 75th of 180 countries and belongs to countries with partly free media (Source: Reporters Without Borders 2019).

    Analysts have estimated that dissatisfaction with the Kosovo government is present not only among the majority Albanian population but also among the members of minority ethnic communities, bearing in mind that the government has not done enough to fight organised crime and corruption, improve the standard of living and the security situation, increase employment rates, attract foreign investments, improve the respect of fundamental human rights, and free the media which are still controlled by the government, political parties and tycoons. The government has not changed its political approach in order to develop effective employment programmes, modify the economic investment policy and make further investments in the implementation of the justice system and the rule of law, which currently accounts for only 1 % of GDP.

    The West sacrificed democracy in Kosovo

    Nine months ago the Pristina authorities imposed import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which represented a blatant violation of the Central European Free Trade Agreement. Yet the EU took no serious measure. That was not the only case when EU showed lack of decisiveness and credibility. For example, in 2013 the governments of Serbia and Kosovo signed the so called Brussels Agreement under the EU’s patronage Despite the complete failure to implement the Agreement, the EU is still hesitating to take any action.

    The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office were established in 2015 but only started to operate in July 2017. Why has no indictment been filed yet?

    Although Kosovo has its own national administration of justice, the EU international mission called Eulex is also present in the country with the aim to assist Kosovo authorities in establishing rule of law. However, this largest EU mission has experienced a complete fiasco.

    All this has put EU’s credibility under question.

    According to analysts EU’s behaviour comes as no surprise. There are large amounts of “dirty” money in Kosovo, used among other by the widespread corruption network to corrupt international officials and representatives of certain powerful states. This is confirmed by the fact that most of the signed agreements were never implemented nor are there any future prospects for their implementation.

    The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) should investigate the activities of EU Delegation to Kosovo and the region, since there is reasonable suspicion that they are involved in crime, corruption and illegitimate spending of EU taxpayers’ money, which causes direct damage to the EU and its citizens and undermines the trust in the EU as well as the general support of membership in the Union. Paradoxically, the mission of the EU (Eulex) in Kosovo is to help establish rule of law, while in reality it undermines it.

    Analysts believe that the West has sacrificed democracy in Kosovo at the expense of false peace and stability, because it formed connections with political-criminal and corrupt structures instead of building partnership relations with the citizens of Kosovo.

    Withdrawals of Kosovo international recognitions

    For several years, Kosovo has not achieved any progress in gaining international recognition as the youngest European state. While international circumstances have changed since Kosovo gained independence, the main responsibility lies with Kosovo authorities which did not take a serious approach to this difficult task. When he was Prime Minister and also later when he became President of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi believed that the country would automatically gain new international recognitions. Serbia has taken proactive action to stop Kosovo’s recognition and has been quite successful in this.

    Analysts believe that Kosovo’s recognitions have been halted due to the activities undertaken by President Thaçi whose politics and initiatives have created additional confusion and uncertainty, so other states are waiting to see what will happen in Kosovo in order to adopt their decisions on granting recognition to it.

    Inevitable early parliamentary election

    The question is whether there will be early parliamentary election in Kosovo? The situation in the political scene and the citizens’ orientation go in favour of the Self-Determination Movement (LVV), which leads slightly before the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), while the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) are competing for the third place. The fifth player that may enter the Kosovo Parliament is the party Nisma. Other political parties are currently below the 5% parliamentary threshold. The representatives of minority communities are given 20 seats in the 120-member Assembly. Like in previous parliamentary elections, public opinion polls have shown again that Albin Kurti enjoys the highest voters’ support as prime minister candidate. Nevertheless, there is still a risk that early election will be prevented, since the leading two parties of the incumbent government (PDK and AAK) would be the losers of next election.

    Analysts have noted that the current circumstances in Kosovo are very detrimental for the country’s interests and that early parliamentary election would most probably resolve the existing complicated situation and bring a new legitimate government that would be ready to face the challenges of fighting crime and corruption, ensuring economic development and preventing massive emigration, especially of the young population, from Kosovo. Therefore the results of the eventual early parliamentary election and the formation of the new coalition and new government could represent a new chance for decriminalisation of Kosovo, which is the key process for the existence and the future of this country.

    Ljubljana, 6 August 2019

    Link (ENG): https://www.ifimes.org/en/9685 (Research – Kosovo 2019 early parliamentary election: A new chance for decriminalisation of Kosovo?)

    Link (BSH): https://www.ifimes.org/ba/9684 (Analiza – Prijevremeni parlamentarni izbori na Kosovu 2019: Nova šansa za dekriminalizaciju Kosova?)

    Link (ENG): European Perspectives international scientific journal link: https://www.europeanperspectives.org/e


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