Lately | Security

Kosovo takes new steps towards establishing its army

By - 07.03.2017

President Thaci bypasses Constitution to push progress.

For three years, Kosovo’s leadership has failed to persuade Kosovo’s Serb MPs to vote for the constitutional changes required in order to transform the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) into the Kosovo Armed Forces (KAF). Today however, President Hashim Thaci, the supreme commander of the KSF, handed the Assembly a draft law through which he aims to enable the formation of a Kosovo army, without the need for changes to the Constitution, or the KSF’s title.

After handing the bill to the President of the Assembly, Kadri Veseli, the President immediately held a press conference, in which he insisted that Kosovo cannot remain hostage to Kosovar Serb deputies “whose attitude comes from Belgrade.” Kosovo, he said, is now an independent country and has the will and the right to decide on its own.

“Three years ago I announced the establishment of the KAF, but unfortunately the reality remains the same even today,” Thaci began, explaining his reasons for giving up on changing the Constitution in order to establish the army.

“Serb representatives in the Assembly have made it clear that they will never vote to make the changes required to establish Kosovo’s Armed Forces,” he continued, adding that “Kosovo cannot leave its fate to the mercy of anyone.”

The president stressed that more important than changing the name of the KSF was changing its capabilities, but added that the transformation of the KSF will not affect the role of the NATO KFOR mission in Kosovo — which under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, is the only recognized security force with a protective mandate in Kosovo.

The proposed bill will now be debated by the presidency of the Kosovo Assembly, who will decide on the further proceedings for the draft law. The discussion will be led by Veseli, who appeared alongside Thaci at the press conference. Veseli stated that the bill would “transform the KSF into Kosovo’s army,” adding that “through this transformation, Kosovo will not just be a consumer of peace in the region, but a contributor to it.”

Trying to establish an army

The first steps for the KSF’s transformation were made in 2014. At that time, both experts and political leaders emphasized the need for constitutional changes to both the name and mandate of the KSF.

However, according to Kosovo’s legislation, constitutional amendments can be made only with the consent of deputies from the Serb community, who openly opposed the establishment of a Kosovar Army.  

Any changes to the constitution of Kosovo require two-thirds of all votes in the Assembly, including the votes of the seats guaranteed for ethnic minority representatives. Without the votes of Kosovo’s Serb representatives, the KAF could not be established.

The first failed attempt to vote in the amendments that would change the name and mandate of the KSF was during Assembly’s fall sessions in 2014, against the backdrop of an ongoing political crisis. Members of the Serb List coalition boycotted the session, while some deputies from LDK were also absent from the Assembly. With the number of deputies required in the parliament to make the vote legally binding not being reached, the motion failed.

Thaci referenced this failure in today’s press conference, stating that the KSF could have easily been transformed that day. He put its failure down to “political developments,” adding that the time has now come to overlook political differences between Kosovar Albanian political parties and to stand together in order to establish Kosovo’s army.

If the proposed bill is passed through the Assembly, the KSF will have both more competencies than ever before, including a protective mandate, and more weapons.

However, Serb List, has publicly made four requirements a condition for supporting any bill related to the creation of a Kosovar army, including key positions in the Intelligence Agency and the KSF being filled by Kosovar Serbs, and the creation of the controversial Association/Community of Serb Majority Municipalities.

When asked if the Serbs’ conditions will be accepted or not by the media today, President Thaci failed to give an answer.K

Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.