Former Kosovar prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, a former guerrilla fighter, has been voted Kosovo’s new premier.
The Assembly of Kosovo on Saturday voted 61 in favor and one abstention to choose Haradinaj, 49, who is also the leader of the center-right Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party. Opposition members boycotted the vote.
Three months after the June 11 parliamentary elections, Haradinaj’s coalition of three parties of former leaders of Kosovo’s war of independence from Serbia, with only 39 seats, secured votes from an ethnic Serb group and a minor Albanian one to gain a majority in the 120-seat parliament.
The new cabinet is to have 21 ministries distributed among five political parties. Behgjet Pacolli of the smaller Alliance for New Kosovo is to be minister of foreign affairs.
Haradinaj served as prime minister from December 2004 to March 2005, before resigning to face the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, the Netherlands, for his role as a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army in the 1998 to 1999 war for independence from Serbia.
He was eventually acquitted twice by the tribunal.
However, Serbia still regards Haradinaj as a war criminal.
Kosovo earlier this year suspended EU-sponsored talks with Serbia after Haradinaj was arrested in France on a warrant from Serbia. A French court refused to extradite him.
Haradinaj will be challenged by Kosovo’s poor economy, continued tense dialogue with Serbia and a need to pass a border demarcation deal with Montenegro. Brussels has set the border deal as a condition for adding Kosovo to western Balkan countries whose citizens are exempt from visas to enter the Schengen travel zone.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize the secession. Kosovo and Serbia must continue EU-mediated talks to normalize ties in order to advance their efforts to join the bloc.
“Our history with Serbia in the past is tragic, but we cannot change the fact that we are neighbors. We have to talk to each other,” Haradinaj said.
A further issue is the prospect of former ethnic Albanian senior rebel commanders in the government soon standing trial at the newly established Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague.
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