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news 14 Feb 18

Kosovars in a Flap Over Roundabout Flag

The decision of Kosovo’s Prime Minister to replace the national Albanian flag at the entrance to Pristina with the Kosovo flag has drawn mixed reactions from people.

Die Morina, Dorentina Kastrati
BIRN
Pristina
The center of Pristina on the eve of 10th anniversary of the Independence | Photo: Atdhe Mulla

A decision to change the flag waving from a tall pole at  at the entrance to Pristina, at the place known as “the roundabout”, has divided the public in Kosovo.

Up until Tuesday, the red and black Albanian national flag waved from the pole - but Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj then gave an order to replace it with Kosovo’s own flag.

While firefighters in a car were lowering the national flag at night and preparing to hoist the Kosovo flag, a window of the car was broken and the flag was stolen.

Kadri Kastrati, a former commander of the Kosovo Security Force, KSF, now an official in the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, wrote that whoever decided to replace the flag in the dark had made a mistake.

“The flag should have been raised and honored by the Guard of the KSF on February 17, 2018 at 8am …as it deserves!,” Kastrati wrote on Facebook.

An MP from the PDK, Ganimete Musliu, also asked why the flag was raised in the evening after dark. “Who are we afraid of?” she wrote on Facebook, asking: “Do we have a state or not?”

The campaign to mark the tenth anniversary of Kosovo's independence by replacing the Albanian national flag with the Kosovo flag started on social media.

A few people created a page with the slogan: “We demand placing the Kosovo flag at the Pristina roundabout”.

They wrote that they were “not against the red and black flag”  – the traditional emblem of the Albanian nation – but wished to affirm their own state's existence.

Pan-Albanian nationalists are not impressed, however. The opposition Vetevendosje party on Tuesday accused the government of "aiming to build a so-called Kosovar identity on the back of our national Albanian identity.

“But in Kosovo, whoever tried to lower the national flag and raise other flags has failed,” the Vetevendosje statement read.

The department of state protocol, which functions within the Foreign Ministry, announced on Tuesday that both flags would in future fly at the roundabout.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj defended the decision. “There is no Albanian that does not honor the national flag. I call on you to have an approach based on respect and constructiveness during these days of celebration,” he said.  

In fact, the Kosovo flag used to fly at the roundabout under the government of former Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, until 2013.

But on November 27 that year, on the eve of Albania’s Independence Day [November 28], at midnight, it was replaced with the national one.

Salih Zyba, now an MP for Vetevendosje, was later charged for carrying out this unauthorised act.

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