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Interview 09 Jun 16

Kosovo’s Vetevendosje Renews Opposition to Montenegro Border Deal

Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) MP Driton Caushi said the opposition party has ended its disruptive three-month boycott of parliament in a bid to stop a controversial border deal with Montenegro.

Ervin Qafmolla
New Vetevendosje MP Driton Caushi. Photo: Vetevendosje.

After three months of absence from the legislature and several more of sometimes violent protests against EU-brokered agreements with Serbia and Montenegro, Vetevendosje, the country’s main opposition party, is returning to the Kosovo Assembly to fight its cause inside the debating chamber, Driton Caushi told BIRN in an interview.

Thursday’s assembly session will be peaceful, Vetevendosje spokesperson Frasher Krasniqi has promised.

But Caushi, who is Vetevendosje’s newest legislator and a prominent party official, told BIRN that peaceful parliamentary proceedings may not be guaranteed in the future.

“We remain committed to objecting to this agreement by any means necessary,” he warned.

The first signs that the party could return to parliamentary life came on April 12, when Vetevendosje MPs participated in a commission on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement which Kosovo and the EU signed in October 2015.

Caushi told BIRN that the party’s absence from parliament was only ever a provisional strategy.

“It was a unilateral decision of the two other opposition parties to boycott parliament, of which we weren’t convinced, because we believed that the assembly was the place for a political battle to happen, apart from protests,” Caushi said.

The three opposition parties, Vetevendosje, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, and Nisma (Initiative for Kosovo), started boycotting the assembly in March.

But frictions between Vetevendosje and the two other parties became an official split in April, when the AAK and Nisma signed a pre-electoral agreement without Vetevendosje.

“The situation was such that we had to walk out of the assembly, but we didn’t sign up for a boycott, and we have always sought to return at any time when harmful decisions such as the border demarcation with Montenegro and the association of Serb-majority municipalities are sneaked in [to the assembly],” Caushi said.

The legislator insisted that Vetevendosje’s record over the 11 years since its creation was proof that it was “consistent and resolute in objecting to cases that endanger in a substantial way the sovereignty and integrity of the Republic of Kosovo”.

Kosovo’s citizens are the only ones in the Balkans who still need visas to travel in the Schengen area, and the EU proposed that the country is awarded a visa-free regime under the condition that it ratifies a controversial border demarcation agreement with Montenegro, which according to the opposition robs Kosovo of swathes of territory.

Caushi argued that Kosovo has been unjustly casted treated for many years and turned into the only isolated country in Europe, but he said it was “not compliant with EU values to exchange one injustice for another”.

Vetevendosje has vowed to object to the border demarcation agreement regardless of the promised benefits and the fact that its opposition is unpopular to some people, arguing that the national interest should prevail.

“Just decisions are not always popular, but I doubt there are any Kosovo citizens who would agree to give away their territories of more than 8,000 hectares in return for such a fundamental right as that of freedom of movement – a condition that wasn’t imposed on any other country,” Caushi said.

The Vetevendosje MP argued that President Hashim Thaci wants to ratify the agreement giving away Kosovo’s land in a bid to avoid prosecution for alleged organised crime. He denies any wrongdoing.

Caushi said it was absurd and yet another evidence of autocratic rulers “pushing forward an agreement that is comprehensively in contradiction to the relevant expertise”.

He also claimed that the ruling majority has not presented any evidence that the border agreement is just and correct.

In recent months, in its attempts to counter the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and the creation of an association of Serb-majority municipalities, the Kosovo opposition parties have held a series of sometimes violent protests, repeatedly setting off tear gas in the assembly.

More than a dozen of opposition MPs have been arrested as a results of the protests, but Caushi insisted their actions were justified.

“Any act, be it undemocratic – as we haven’t justified our methods as conventionally democratic – will be as always in service to the oath we have taken as representatives of the people,” he said.

He added that he hopes the Kosovo assembly will now “start to function as a normal institution” but heed what he described as “a wake-up call”.

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