Protests: A weak alibi for Albin Kurti not to form the CSM

Source: Kosovo Online

Protests in Pristina against the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities began on the last day of January. Although only a few dozen citizens gathered that day, it was announced that the protests would be everywhere and would become massive. The students also scheduled their march against the CSM for February 15. Can the "voice of the people" become another alibi for Albin Kurti to delay the formation of the CSM, and are these voices rigged?

Afrim Kasolli, a former deputy of Kurti's Self-Determination Movement, pointed out that this possibility existed. According to him, the protests and the alleged resistance to the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities looked like a tactical game by Prime Minister Albin Kurti in order to justify himself in the face of international pressure to suffer internal pressure. According to Kasolli, they would also serve him in the event that he started forming the CSM.

Stefan Surlic from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade tells Kosovo Online that in previous years they worked on a campaign to demonize the CSM and that he would not be surprised if there would be civil resistance, but also that he sees the protests as staged.

"Albin Kurti came to power on the thesis that he would not form the CSM, that was one of his basic political promises, and now he is in a problem because international actors, above all the US, insist that the authorities in Pristina implement what is an obligation from the Brussels dialogues including the CSM. Of course, the consequence of such a policy of Kurti is the creation of public opinion that supports him. All these years, he created public opinion that the majority of citizens think that the CSM is something that is directed against Albanians. I see these protests as staged in order for him to get additional room for maneuvering and to be able to say: 'It is not easy for me to implement the CSM, Kosovo society does not want it to be implemented'. So I see the direct political instrumentalization and the purpose of those protests that are being organized," Surlic says.

The protest against the "imposition" of the formation of the CSM was held on Tuesday, the same day when a discussion on this obligation of Pristina was organized at the US Embassy in Kosovo, in which representatives of the government, the opposition, and the civil sector participated.

"Protests everywhere will be massive, peaceful, and in support of the Government of Albin Kurti, which is working with all its might to preserve the integrity and sovereignty of Kosovo. Albanians will fight to stop the CSM and European institutions should reconsider their position," the protest said, in which the banner "In the name of the Albanian people against the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities" was displayed.

Two days later, the Student Parliament of the University of "Hasan Prishtina" announced that on February 15, it would hold a march against the establishment of the CSM. In their proclamation, it is said that it was necessary to mobilize and organize students to oppose the "evil" that was trying to install itself in Kosovo.

Mazllum Baraliu, a political analyst from Pristina, assessed that the formation of the CSM was unacceptable for public opinion in Kosovo because it was against the Constitution.

Regarding what are the chances that the reference to the "argument" of public opinion's opposition to the Community of Serb-majority Municipalities will pass in the West, Surlic says that such an excuse will not pass.

"There is clear international pressure and at the moment it is just buying time. And the six conditions that Kurti presented for the formation of the CSM are an attempt to justify why he changed his position. From the radical attitude of "there is no chance" we have come to "yes, I will still implement" but with six conditions that are completely unrelated to what reality is and what the current course of the dialogue is. I think that at the moment there is strong pressure from international actors because, due to geopolitical circumstances and the war in Ukraine, they want an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, and they know that the prerequisite for that is that everything that was previously agreed is implemented, including the CSM. Kurti and his government probably won't be able to escape from that obligation," Surlic concludes.

Protests and riots are, by the way, the tested methods of action of the Self-Determination Movement from the time when it was in opposition. In the center of Pristina, supporters of the Self-Determination Movement demolished 28 EULEX vehicles in 2009. In 2013, this movement organized a protest against the agreement between the then Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and the Prime Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic, during which the American Ambassador of the time Tracey Ann Jacobson was also injured. Because of the agreement on demarcation with Montenegro in 2015, they threw tear gas into the parliament hall and in 2016 they overturned trucks with Serbian goods...

Journalist Idro Seferi tells Kosovo Online that the protest against the CSM held a few days ago was not large, but that it is to be expected that many in Kosovo will oppose the decision on the CSM.

"Albin Kurti is the only one who loudly opposed the CSM, and I don't see the potential for other political factors in Kosovo to call for protests. This could be done by smaller parties that are not in the parliament, and it would be more difficult for the latter because they themselves were in the process of negotiations, and some signed agreements. If the government itself invites citizens to the streets, it will be visible. It is difficult for Kurti to deal with this topic precisely because he was the organizer of protests against the CSM. This time he will have to negotiate," Seferi believes.

Demonstrations, he adds, can be under the influence of the authorities, but he believes that the moment has not come to solve this issue in that way.

"Kurti is against the formation of the CSM and has given his conditions. This topic will still have to be discussed at the political level, at the level of the government, and even the opposition parties, and not be resolved with protests," Seferi says.