Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

EU wary as guerrilla general named to lead Kosovo

The EU is quietly wary over the nomination of Agim Ceku, a former Albanian guerrilla general under indictment by Serbia, as the new prime minister of Kosovo, Balkans agency DTT-NET.COM writes.

Kosovo's ruling coalition AAK party put forward Mr Ceku on Wednesday (1 March) after former prime minister Bajram Kosumi resigned, with the changes coming in the middle of UN-led Kosovo-Serbian talks on the future status of Kosovo.

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The European Commission and the office of EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana called the nomination "an internal matter."

Mr Solana's bureau and the UN also urged Kosovo to press ahead with UN reforms, especially on human rights standards for ethnic minorities in the region.

But one EU diplomat explained Brussels is unlikely to voice any concerns publicly due to the sensitivity of the Kosovo situation.

"This is the kind of thing one handles discreetly," the EU contact said.

"The EU has a huge responsibility in the stability of the region," he added. "But of course they [Kosovo and Serbia] should also take care over the future of Kosovo themselves, and refrain from doing anything that has bad consequences for the very delicate, fragile peace process that is now under way."

A UK official indicated "we are watching the situation closely. In general, we expect political stability and maturity."

Serbians fear radicalisation

Serbian politician Sanda Raskovic-Ivic and Kosovan Serb politician Goran Bogdanovic said the Ceku move will spread fear and will be seen as disrespectful by Belgrade, Serb news agency BETA reported.

"The candidacy of Ceku for such a big and important political role is a sign that the Albanian side has lost its nerve and that it has turned to radicalisation," Ms Raskovic-Ivic stated.

Another Kosovan Serb politician, Randjel Nojkic, said the nomination is designed to deflect international attention from the slow pace of reforms in the region.

"They have chosen the right moment to make the position more difficult of the international community and especially of the UN special envoy in the Kosovo status talks, Martti Ahtisaari, who is staying in Pristina over the next three days," BETA cited Mr Nojkic as saying.

Belgrade issued an Interpol arrest warrant for Mr Ceku's arrest on charges of war crimes against Serbian civilians in Kosovo in 2002.

He was twice captured in Slovenia and Hungary but later freed after interventions by EU and UN diplomats.

Who is Ceku?

Ethnic Albanian Mr Ceku fought alongside Croatian forces against the Serbian army from 1992 to 1995 and became the commander in chief of the Kosovan Liberation Army in the late 1990s.

He took over command of Kosovo's civil emergency structure, the Kosovo Protection Force, comprised mainly of former KLA members, after European and US forces helped put an end to ethnic clashes in Kosovo in 1999.

Ex-prime minister Kosumi stepped down facing an AAK vote of no confidence over the slow pace of UN reforms in the territory saying "I know that I can't have enough support votes...I resign for the interests of general progress."

The Ceku appointment comes after ethnic Albanian pro-independence academic Fatmir Sejdiu replaced Kosovo's deceased former president Ibrahim Rugova last month.

Kosovo legally belongs to Serbia but has been run by the UN for the past seven years.

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