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News 11 Mar 17

Thaci Threatens to Quit if Kosovo Army Bill Fails

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci on Friday said he would resign if parliament does not approve a law transforming the current Security Force into a regular army.

Perparim Isufi
BIRN
Pristina
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci. Photo: Visar Kryeziu/AP

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci told Kosovo’s Public Broadcaster, RTK, on Friday that he will quit if the country does not form its own regular army.

Thaci said he did not “want to lead a country that does not vote in favour of the establishment of its own army.

“If this assembly does not vote in favour [of the army bill], I will immediately resign from my position.

“I think that any parliament that does not vote for [creation of] its own army should go home,” he said.

His comments came two days after NATO and the US embassy criticised proposals by the Kosovo authorities to transform the current Kosovo Security Force, KSF, into an army, but without prior constitutional changes and obtaining consent across all communities.

The initiative is opposed by Kosovo Serb MPs and has also angered the Serbian government, which opposes any moves designed to reinforce Kosovo's statehood - which Belgrade still contests. [The former Serbian province declared independence in 2008].

“This should not catch anyone by surprise. The Kosovo army will be established in coordination with relevant international stakeholders," Thaci said.

“They have been consulted and informed during the entire process. Earlier, I informed and consulted also with [the ruling] coalition and speaker of parliament,” Thaci said adding that the “issue should be closed once for all.”

On March 7, Thaci handed Speaker of Parliament Kadri Veseli the proposed changes in a bill that would see the current Security Force strengthened in terms of its responsibilities and capacities.

But, following Thaci’s comments, the US Ambassador to Kosovo, Greg Delawie, warned Pristina against taking unilateral steps to set up an army.

"The US believes Kosovo's security depends on the quality of its partnerships. We don't want to see Kosovo out of step with key partners," Delawie wrote on Twitter.

Currently, the Security Force has only limited competencies while national security remains in the hands of a NATO peacekeeping mission of around 5,000 soldiers drawn from 30 member and partner states.

Constitutional amendments needed for the KSF's transformation into a regular army require a “double majority” in parliament.

This means that two-thirds of the 100 Kosovo Albanian MPs and two-thirds of the 20 ethnic non-Albanian MPs would 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.

As Serbian MPs strongly oppose a Kosovo army, Thaci intended to bypass this blockade by proposing changes that would broaden the responsibilities of the existing Security Force without involving the passage of constitutional amendments.

“There will be no step back. The KSF will become an army, with or without them,” Thaci said, referring to Kosovo Serb MPs.

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