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news 07 Mar 17

Kosovo May Form Army, Bypassing Serb Veto

Kosovo's president is mulling ways to bypass a Serb veto on the formation of an army by proposing changes that would broaden the responsibilities of the existing Kosovo Security Force.

Taulant Osmani
 Kosovo Security Forces: Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ SUHEJLO.

Kosovo's President is planning to establish a regular army for the country by amending the current Law on the Kosovo Security Force, KSF, extending its powers and responsibilities.

A change to the competencies of the existing KSF would circumvent the need to win Kosovo Serb MPs' approval for the formation of a regular army.

MPs from Srpska Lista, the Serbian party, which is loyal to Belgrade, are wholly against Kosovo having a regular army.

Although the proposal is expected to be debated this week, parties in the Kosovo Assembly told BIRN on Monday they had not yet received a proposal from President Hashim Thaci.

“I am aware that the President's Office and the KSF Ministry are working on the proposal but I have no other information,” Zenun Pajaziti, MP and caucus chief for the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, said.

According to the government, the new law will not transform the KSF but only its mission, which is currently limited to conducting crisis response and civil protection operations and assisting the civil authorities in responding to natural disasters and other emergencies.

The new law will broaden the KSF's mission into the "protection of the sovereignty of Kosovo", according to the media.

Speaking at a KSF parade on Sunday, Thaçi said that he intended to take the Law on KSF to parliament with proposals that would see it equipped with more responsibilities over national defence and security.

“As Kosovo citizens expect, the Kosovo Security Force within the new law will have a mission to protect Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, its citizens, the property and interests of the Republic of Kosovo, and contribute to peace and stability in the region and the world,” Thaçi said.

Driton Selmanaj, from the Pristina-based think tank Democracy Plus, told BIRN that there would be no need for a so-called "double two-thirds" vote in parliament for such an amendment.

“The law could be changed by a simple majority of the votes in parliament," he said, "although the question is then whether it would also mean constitutional changes”.

Constitutional amendments require a “double majority” in parliament, meaning that two-thirds of the 100 Kosovo Albanian MPs and two-thirds of the 20 ethnic minority MPs need to vote in favour of them.

Kosovo Serbs hold 10 of the 20 seats reserved for minorities, effectively making them “kingmakers” in this process.

According to Selmanaj, Thaci is trying to find a compromise following the failure to convince Kosovo Serb MPs to agree to change the constitution.

“I see the change of the law as a preparatory phase until we come to the constitutional amendments, but constitutional changes would also be necessary in this case,” Driton Selmanaj added.

While opposition parties have been vocal in opposing most of Thaçi's initiatives, things look different when it comes to changing the KSF's status.

Daut Haradinaj, from the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, agreed that changing the current law is the only way to strengthen the KSF's capacities.

“Seeing that Lista Srpska is not willing to vote for the transformation of the KSF [into an army], this is the only way to change the mission of the force,” Haradinaj told BIRN.

Anton Quni, from the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, said he hoped the initiative could be taken with the consent of the international community and Kosovo's Western allies.

“I hope Thaci's intiative is not contested by our strategic partners,” Quni said referring to NATO, which has monitored the KSF since its establishment, after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

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