Kosovo lawmakers choose Haradinaj as the new prime minister
PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Ramush Haradinaj, ex-prime minister of Kosovo and a former guerrilla fighter, has been voted the country’s new premier.
Parliament 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.
“It’s a day for opportunities for our country, for our people. My commitment is that this government will serve Kosova, our people, Kosovar citizens,” Haradinaj told The Associated Press before the vote.
Three months after the June 11 election, 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 will have 21 ministries distributed among five political parties. Behgjet Pacolli of the smaller Alliance for New Kosovo will be foreign minister.
Haradinaj served as prime minister before from December 2004 to March 2005 before resigning to face a U.N. tribunal for his role as a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army in Kosovo’s 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia. He was eventually cleared twice of war crimes charges by the U.N. tribunal.
Serbia, however, still regards him as a war criminal. Kosovo suspended EU-sponsored talks with Serbia earlier this year 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 the border demarcation deal with Montenegro. Brussels has set the border deal as a condition for adding Kosovo to western Balkan countries whose citizens don’t need visas to enter the EU’s Schengen travel zone.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Serbia doesn’t recognize the move. Kosovo and Serbia must continue European Union-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 facing prosecution in the newly established war crimes court in The Hague. The court is expected to issue indictments shortly for crimes against civilians during and after the war with Serbia.
Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania contributed to this report.