World

Albin Kurti, once jailed for pro-independence stance, named Kosovar PM

Kosovo's parliament on Monday voted in a new prime minister after nearly four months of talks between the country's two main parties.

He succeeds Ramush Haradinaj, who was wanted for questioning related to 1990s hostilities

Albin Kurti, the newly elected prime minister of Kosovo, waves after a new government was elected in the capital Pristina on Monday. (Visar Kryeziu/The Associated Press)

Kosovo's parliament on Monday voted in a new prime minister after nearly four months of talks between the country's two main parties.

Albin Kurti received 66 votes in favour, 10 lawmakers abstained and the opposition walked out of the 120-seat parliament to protest the vote.

Kurti's left-wing Self-Determination Movement, or Vetevendosje!, came first in an Oct. 6 snap election but fell short of a majority.

Vetevendosje! won 29 seats in parliament and is in coalition with the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, which won one less.

Kurti, 44, said he will cut the number of ministries in his cabinet to 15, from 21 in the previous one.

"We shall be a government that spares public money. Less spending on posts and privileges so that we spend more on projects," he said when introducing his program.

Coalition talks dragged amid disagreements over who should get the post of president when the incumbent's mandate ends in 2021.

They have parked the issue and will discuss again nearer the time.

Tensions with Serbia

Each coalition partner will have six cabinet posts, while according to Kosovo's constitution two will be allocated to the ethnic Serb minority and one to smaller minority parties.

Fighting organized crime and corruption are the main campaign platforms that helped Kurti's Vetevendosje! and LDK win a four-year mandate, replacing the former governing coalition of two centre-right political groups formed by former wartime fighters.

Resuming dialogue with Serbia over normalizing ties, stalled since the previous government set a 100 per cent tariff on Serb goods, remains a top challenge.

In the past two weeks both the United States and the European Union have sent envoys to Pristina and Belgrade urging them to resume dialogue.

Kurti, who spent more than two and a half years jailed in Serbia for his pro-independence activities and was released in 2001 following Western pressure on Belgrade, said he was ready to "lead the Kosovo team in the future talks with Serbia."

He said, however, that the 100 per cent tariff on Serb goods will not be lifted but will be replaced with "reciprocity," referring to the implementation of 33 deals signed between the two countries since 2011. He gave no further details.

"With Serbia we shall turn back to full commercial, economic and political reciprocity," he said.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said co-operation with the new Kosovo government will depend on whether it will fulfil its obligations toward the agreements already reached in the EU-mediated talks and abolish "the uncivilized" tariffs.

The snap election was called after then-prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, was summoned in July to be questioned by a Netherlands-based international court on war crimes allegedly committed during and after the 1998-1999 war in the country.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia doesn't recognize Kosovo.

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