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.