Kosovo: Self-determination in practice - a destructive force, or a symbol of true engagement for human rights? 

Article published on Nov. 1, 2013
Article published on Nov. 1, 2013

The po­lit­i­cal move­ment, Lëvizja VETËVEN­DOSJE! (Al­ban­ian term for Self-de­ter­mi­na­tion) is often judged from politi­cians both in Kosovo and Eu­rope, as a rad­i­cal one that uses vi­o­lence in its at­tempts for pro­tect­ing its be­liefs for jus­tice and what the peo­ple of Kosovo need. Is Lëvizja VETËVEN­DOSJE! de­struc­tive or Albin ​Kurti needs to be re­ally heard?

Vetëven­dosje is a po­lit­i­cal move­ment in Kosovo, led by Albin Kurti, who is po­lit­i­cally ac­tive since the non-vi­o­lent stu­dent protests in 1997. Kurti was ar­rested by the Milo­se­vic regime in 1999 for his ac­tiv­i­ties that al­legedly "jeop­ar­dized Yu­goslavia's ter­ri­to­r­ial in­tegrity" (http://​www.​alb-net.​com/​ngos/​freeal­binkurti.​com/​archive/​news-sen­treut03-14.​html) and sen­tenced to 15 years prison. He was re­leased in 2001 from the post-Milo­se­vic regime with pres­sure from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Many Al­ba­ni­ans saw him as an in­di­vid­ual who knows how to stand for human rights and he him­self has many times stated that he is against any chau­vin­is­tic na­tion­al­ism re­gard­less of which na­tion "prac­tices it" and that his ac­tiv­i­ties are aimed at cre­at­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for Al­ba­ni­ans within Kosovo to live in peace with op­portu­ni­ties for pros­per­ity. He worked as an ac­tivist for Ac­tion for Kosovo Net­work (AKN) that was later trans­formed to the Vetëven­dosje move­ment (move­ment for Self-de­ter­mi­na­tion). Kurti has been ac­tive with it in pro­tect­ing his be­liefs for what should a sovere­ign and a just Kosovo look like. Vetëven­dosje has be­come ac­tive in party pol­i­tics and has mem­bers in the Par­lia­ment, where Albin Kurti is also a Deputy.

Many op­pose and ques­tion Vetëven­dosje, and quite often in tele­vi­sion de­bates, Kosovo's pro-gov­ern­men­tal bi­ased politi­cians and jour­nal­ists find time to crit­i­cize it and be con­cerned with its way of op­er­a­tion, which brings an ob­vi­ous fact to the mind of the view­ers: that they would rather avoid some sen­si­tive top­ics raised by ac­tivists in these de­bates, by crit­i­ciz­ing the op­er­a­tion man­ner of Vetëven­dosje. How­ever, Vetëven­dosje en­joys a wide sup­port from the pop­u­la­tion in Kosovo. This can be seen from the num­ber of peo­ple that par­tic­i­pate in protests in re­sponse to their calls, but also by the grow­ing num­ber of ac­tivists that are join­ing it.

In de­fense to the ac­cu­sa­tion for vi­o­lently ex­press­ing their opin­ions and stat­ing their de­mands, in a re­cent TV pro­gram on KTV, Albin Kurti, the leader of Vetëven­do­jse said: “a protest is also a de­mo­c­ra­tic in­sti­tu­tion”, and he con­tin­ued by say­ing that self-de­ter­mi­na­tion is a po­lit­i­cal move­ment and not con­strained only to what the term po­lit­i­cal party im­plies, which means it acts within and out of the in­sti­tu­tions of the sys­tem and that its only con­cern is the well-be­ing of the peo­ple of Kosovo.  The goal of Vetëven­dosje is not to win elec­tions for the sake of gain­ing power, but if it wins elec­tion, its goal is to use the power of gov­ern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions to make Kosovo a bet­ter place to live for every­one.

Through a writ­ten cor­re­spon­dence, Kurti an­swered some of my ques­tions con­cern­ing Kosovo.  An­swer­ing a ques­tion con­cern­ing the in­te­gra­tion of the Ser­bian pop­u­la­tion, A. Kurti wrote: “The in­te­gra­tion of Ser­bian pop­u­la­tion in Kosovo by in­clud­ing in­di­vid­u­als only within pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions is not a true and sus­tain­able process. The in­sti­tu­tional in­te­gra­tion of Serbs as is the situation currently, is in­te­gra­tion only of their "elite" rep­re­sen­ta­tives and not of the Ser­bian peo­ple in general.  The true in­te­gra­tion of the Ser­bian pop­u­la­tion will be when it is done in terms of a de­mo­c­ra­tic so­cial in­te­gra­tion. Vetëven­dosje strongly be­lieves that the most ef­fi­cient way of guar­an­tee­ing the pro­tec­tion of mi­nori­ties is a func­tional state with an eco­nomic progress that of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties and well-be­ing for every cit­i­zen of Kosovo”.

Kurti has made it clear that Vetëven­dosje does not have a prob­lem with a “nor­mal” Ser­bia, but with ”Ser­bia in­side Kosovo”, and often elab­o­rates how Kosovo should not have the Bosn­ian model of split gov­er­nance. “With the agree­ment that was made on the 19th of April, 2013, it can be de­ducted that Kosovo and Ser­bia both share the gov­er­nance and sov­er­eignty of Kosovo. The es­tab­lish­ment of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ser­bian com­mu­ni­ties means a cre­ation of a par­al­lel struc­ture on a state level, and this is sim­i­lar to the re­la­tion of Bosnia and Re­pub­lika Srp­ska. Thus, the re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries are not nor­mal­ized with this agree­ment,” an­swered Kurti when asked about his opin­ion on the agree­ment with Ser­bia.

State­ments such as those that Ser­bia should apol­o­gize for war crimes, re­turn the Cat­a­stral doc­u­ments, co­op­er­ate in find­ing and re­turn­ing the lost peo­ple of Kosovo, were found among the de­mands of Kurti and Vetëven­dosje. In this con­text, he and Vetëven­dosje were not protest­ing against the ne­go­ti­a­tions with Ser­bia per se but against the man­ner in which the ne­go­ti­a­tions were con­ducted, namely with­out set­ting any con­di­tions, such as the afore­men­tioned ones and oth­ers, for the Ser­bian side. “In prin­ci­ple we are not against talks and ne­go­ti­a­tions with Ser­bia but we are on the opin­ion that Ser­bia must com­plete some po­lit­i­cal, legal, moral and hu­man­i­tar­ian con­di­tions be­fore any kind of ne­go­ti­a­tions and talks can be started”, an­swers Kurti.

Ilir Deda, for­mer Chief of Staff and Po­lit­i­cal Ad­vi­sor of the Pres­i­dent of Kosovo, and cur­rent Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor at the Koso­var In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Re­search and De­vel­op­ment(KIPRED), meets Kurti half-way.  Deda said on a pro­gram on KTV, that with the agree­ment of April 19th “the as­so­ci­a­tion of Ser­bian mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties is turned into a po­lit­i­cal sub­ject that will func­tion both within the laws of Kosovo and Ser­bia”.  He says that the main prob­lem in the agree­ment with Ser­bia is ex­actly the fact that with it the con­cept of a mul­ti­eth­nic coun­try is spoiled.

Deda said that many diplo­mats have tried to put pres­sure and ex­plain that the only pos­si­ble op­tion for clos­ing the issue be­tween Kosovo and Ser­bia and the pos­si­bil­ity of Kosovo to join UN is sign­ing a basic agree­ment for nor­mal­iza­tion of the re­la­tions be­tween these coun­tries that de­fines the oblig­a­tions of both coun­tries to­ward each other. Deda con­tin­ued by stress­ing that in his opin­ion the only way for Koso­vars to have once and for all put a clo­sure to the issue of the state of Kosovo in Balkans and world­wide, was if on the agree­ment which was made with Ser­bia, were in­cluded points with which re­la­tions with Ser­bia would have been clearly de­fined, and with which it would have ex­plic­itly been al­lowed for Kosovo to join the UN. “This is dif­fi­cult to change now after the agree­ment is made”, said Deda. How­ever, he stated that it is im­por­tant now that Kosovo changes it­self and its gov­ern­ing model, and that this change should be done by mas­sive vot­ing in elec­tions, be­cause “every per­son in the coun­try should feel an oblig­a­tion, not for him­self but for the state, to vote”. Both he and Kurti cri­tique the cur­rent gov­ern­ment of Kosovo, for not being able to show in prac­tice that Kosovo knows what it wants, so that the de­mands can be taken more se­ri­ously from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Deda talked about prob­lems in the coun­try, such as those of not being able to com­plete the cri­te­ria for the EU Visa lib­er­al­iza­tion and or­ga­nized crime.

When asked about the Vetëven­dosje move­ment, on the same show on KTV, Deda said that the be­hav­ior to­ward Vetëven­dosje from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is not right and that it is not cor­rect to be la­beled as they are, be­cause Vetëven­dosje has a tremen­dous sup­port from the pop­u­la­tion, and this party needs to be re­spected and to be com­mu­ni­cated with. Deda added, that for cer­tain top­ics he and Vetven­dosje share the same opin­ions and frus­tra­tions, and in­di­vid­u­als rep­re­sent­ing other po­lit­i­cal sub­jects be­lieve in the same things pri­vately as well, with the dif­fer­ence that they do not ex­press them pub­licly.

Kosovo is prepar­ing for the local elec­tions on No­vem­ber 3.  The re­sults of these elec­tions may or may not be an in­di­ca­tion of the sup­port that Vetëven­dosje has in gen­eral.  How­ever, the ques­tion sup­port­ers can ask is, what can this party bring for the peo­ple of Kosovo if they win local but most im­por­tantly par­lia­men­tary elec­tions? Will the pres­sure of tak­ing prac­ti­cal de­ci­sions in pos­si­ble fur­ther talks with Ser­bia and talks with the In­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity keep Vetëven­dosje from being as pos­i­tively ag­gres­sive as it is now? Or will it im­pact it to the ex­tent into be­com­ing flex­i­ble in ne­go­ti­a­tions and de­mands, to the point of neg­a­tive ef­fect on Kosovo’s progress as a sov­er­eign coun­try, as what they cri­tique the cur­rent gov­ern­ment of doing now? Quite surely, many have a clear an­swer to this.

It seems that the pop­u­la­tion has high hopes in Vetëven­dosje, and much of it have spawned from the words and ac­tions that come from the hon­est heart of its leader as well as the hon­esty, courage, vi­sion, prin­ci­ples  and clear goals of the whole or­ga­ni­za­tion. Kurtis pro­file and the ever-grow­ing sup­port for him sig­nals the need of hav­ing in­di­vid­u­als like him as world­wide sym­bols of how to make a stand and re­spect the free­dom of ac­tion in de­fend­ing human rights. Will Kurti be able to in­te­grate his po­lit­i­cal strength and con­duct with his Sar­ter­ian free­dom of ac­tion and the right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion? For many, he al­ready has that golden mix­ture and it cer­tainly seems that this com­bi­na­tion would not be bad for Kosovo.