Dear Ambassador Greg Delawie,
There are many things not to like about Kosovo’s opposition parties. Vetevendosje can be dogmatic to the point that any criticism, even well-intended, is perceived as an attack. The AAK had no problem aligning itself with the PDK when a potential carrot was in store for the Hague-Tribunal-acquitted Ramush Haradinaj, and let’s not get forget that this is also the party that gave birth to the political career of Pal Lekaj, who was sued for abuse of office and sky high expenses during his tenure as the mayor of Gjakova. And watching Fatmir Limaj of NISMA, who has been accused of corruption, organized crime, and war crimes, talk about the rule of law at recent protests is simply laughable. That said, the opposition represents a large swath of the population, myself included, that are sick and tired of Kosovo’s ruling political class.
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that this government and the one that came before it entered into negotiations with Serbia, a historical aggressor, with little to no consultation with the public or any kind of consensus building among the entire political spectrum. These negotiations will shape the future of the country, and a wise government would know that consensus is crucial to being able to fulfill obligations that emerge from such negotiations.
The strong reactions against the proposed Serb Association of Municipalities isn’t only a knee-jerk nationalist response. It’s the result of being sprung with a vaguely worded legal agreement that legitimizes Serbia’s continued presence in Kosovo – even allowing for funds from Serbia to be directly funneled to the Association, but of course with the “strict” (read: entirely undefined) oversight of the Kosovo government. Stop for a minute, Mr. Delawie, and try to imagine how Americans would feel if its government allowed a hostile foreign country spread its largesse throughout the U S of A.
But not only does the government keep the public entirely in the dark about negotiations with Serbia, it has failed to show any visible measure of progress on transitional justice (a precursor, many would argue, to any other topics of discussion), employment, education, healthcare, or any of the other myriad fields where the government can improve people’s lives.
We have seen the opposite. We have seen taxpayer money going towards obscenely expensive governmental cars fulfilling the Grand Theft Auto fantasies of civil servants, paychecks going to governmental consultants with the intellectual capacity of schoolchildren, tenders openly awarded to the family members of politicians — hell, we don’t even know how many of these people may end up being in court for war crimes. This is Kosovo’s political landscape.
Today several members of the opposition were arrested for throwing teargas into the parliament. Do I support tear gas being thrown into the parliament? No. But I also don’t support the government’s shady dealings with Bechtel-Enka, Adem Grabovci’s sons punching a police officer and getting away with it, Isa Mustafa’s son winning a tender from the Prime Minister’s Office, or PDK MP Ganimete Musliu threatening to throw a shoe at one of her colleagues in parliament. But to stay on topic: I also don’t support Vetevendosje MP Albulena Haxhiu being pushed to the ground by parliament security, or her family being barred entry from her emergency room while she’s allegedly searched by police officers. It’s unfair for the opposition to be expected to follow the law down to the last comma, while the wrongdoings of those in government are given more than a free pass, but a glowing commendation from the embassy.
I also think your statement about how “17 years ago, people fought and died for peace and democracy” deserves commentary. First of all, referencing the war is a cheap ploy. If the intention is to play on people’s emotions with our recent past, this is an entirely tone deaf way to do it. People fought and died, but not for a government that negotiates in the dark with Serbia about the future of our country. People fought and died, but not for a country in which the political elite and their families run roughshod over everyone else. People fought and died, but not for a country in which the government brings its opposition to a point where teargas starts looking like the only way to affect any change within the system. People fought and died, but not for a state structure that is democratic in name only.
I would assume you, as the US ambassador, would understand this. Instead, you have decided to demonize the opposition, and in doing so, have demonized all of us in this country who believe it’s high time for fundamental change in the way politics are done here.
This letter was originally published on Prishtina Insight.