Three years of Kurti’s government: How is it going? - Kosovo 2.0

Three years of Kurti’s government: How is it going?

The third year of Kurti’s government explained.

By Gentiana Paçarizi | March 22, 2024

Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government is beginning the fourth and final year of its mandate. With a victory of 50.28% of the vote in the February 14, 2021 elections, the government promised comprehensive reforms and sparked high expectations.

Kurti’s party, left-leaning Vetëvendosje (VV), produced a government program that prioritized social well-being through reducing poverty and increasing social protection for Kosovo’s citizens. Reforms were promised in the health, education and justice sectors. VV’s winning slogan was “A fair and equal state for all.” The governing program’s primary focus was strengthening the state internally, deprioritizing dialogue with Serbia.

1,095 days after the election, the outcomes of the Kurti government do not seem to match what the governing program set out to achieve. Despite the government’s commitment and aspiration to address domestic problems, its efforts were largely overshadowed by the events related to Kosovo’s relations with Serbia and the ongoing dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina.

New general elections are expected to take place in early 2025. As in the previous two years, K2.0 will assess the governing program’s accomplishments and overall developments, with a special emphasis on the dialogue, economy, judiciary and human rights.

K2.0 examines what went wrong in the period between March 2023 and March 2024.

Tensions in the north — the headline of 2023

The third year of the Kurti government started with turmoil caused by the Agreement on the path to normalization between Kosovo and Serbia and its Implementation Annex, which was verbally agreed to in March 2023. The agreement, also known as the Ohrid Agreement, was mediated by the European Union (EU) and supported by the United States. It is considered an important step in making progress in the dialogue by these actors.

Article 7 of the agreement soon became its most controversial article. It foresees the creation of “arrangements” and guarantees to ensure an “appropriate level” of self-management for the Serb community in Kosovo.

The Kurti government’s main challenge was to convince the citizens of Kosovo that the self-management of Serb-majority municipalities according to Ohrid Agreement was not the same as “Zajednica,” the Serbian word for “community” or “association.” This distinction was important, as VV called the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities “Zajednica” after the signing of the Brussels Agreement in 2013, which foresaw the Association’s formation. Opposition to the Association — “Zajednica,” as VV called it — was one of the issues that shaped VV’s criticism of the policy-making in Kosovo at the time. Such criticism stemmed from the fear of creating a political entity that would render the central Kosovar state impotent, similar to the structural impact Republika Srpska has had in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

However, the Implementation Annex makes it clear that this level of self-management must be consistent with previous agreements. This means that it should be implemented according to the Brussels agreement, which provided for the establishment of the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities.

Despite the public fuss that the Ohrid Agreement caused, developments in Serb-majority municipalities throughout 2023 and the beginning of this year overshadowed it. The EU switched from calls for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia to calls for de-escalation.


One significant development was the organization of elections on April 23, 2023 in Zvečan, Leposavić, Zubin Potok and North Mitrovica — four Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo. These elections were organized after the resignation of the previous mayors in November 2022. These mayors joined the initiative of their party, Srpska Lista, for the general resignation of Serbs from all Kosovo institutions.

The non-participation of Srpska Lista — the largest Serb party — and the boycott of the majority of Serb voters resulted in victory for candidates from Albanian parties. This, together with the low turnout (just over 3% of registered voters), undermined the election’s legitimacy.

The commencement of work by elected mayors in official municipal facilities became a highly contentious issue. This initial opposition was followed by protests by local Serbs that escalated into violence. Embassy representatives and international structures called for the mayors to carry out their work from alternative spaces and not in the municipal facilities, as well as for new elections to be organized.

The EU and the QUINT countries (U.S., Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom (U.K.)) generally attributed the responsibility for the tensions in the north to the Kosovo Government. For the first time, the EU sanctioned Kosovo for not coordinating political decisions with it.

Before holding new elections, the Kurti government first demanded the punishment of “gangs in the north” and then the removal of EU sanctions, but neither happened. As the mayors continued to exercise their duties, the government started preparations for new elections.

The organization of new elections has been put on hold due to the challenge of finding a way to remove the mayors without forcing them to resign. The Kosovo government rejected the resignation option. Instead, it was decided to first hold a petition where local Serbs will vote for or against the dismissal of the current mayors. Citizens in the four Serb-majority municipalities will vote on April 21, 2024 whether they are in favor of dismissing the current mayors or not. 

In September 2023, efforts to return to the EU-mediated dialogue materialized in the form of a fruitless meeting between Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in Brussels. However, the attack in Banjska, in which a Serbian armed group killed Kosovo Police sergeant Afrim Bunjaku, further complicated the Kosovo-Serbia relationship.

The attack in Banjska was seen as a turning point for Kosovo, providing an opportunity for the government to finally show Serbia’s destructive role in the dialogue, especially given that the Banjska attack was led by Milan Radoičić, the former vice president of the Srpska Lista, who is widely regarded as having close ties to Vučić. Kurti refused to return to the dialogue without the EU sanctioning of the Serbian government for its role in the Banjska attack. Kurti raised this issue in international meetings and the media. Despite these efforts, the EU has not taken any steps in this direction.

However, Kurti returned to the dialogue framework a month later, on October 21, 2023, when the EU and U.S. presented him with a model for the formation of the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities. While the contents of this draft were not made public, Kurti said that it complied with the Constitution of Kosovo. 

Days after receiving the model for the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities, on October 26, 2023, Kurti and Vučić held separate meetings in Brussels with the heads of government of France, Italy and Germany, as well as EU High Representative Josep Borell and the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák. The meeting did not yield any results because, according to the EU, neither side agreed to the other’s preconditions.

Kurti initially said, in October 2023, that the draft for the Association was in accordance with the Constitution. However, in an interview on March 19, 2024, he said that he had reservations about the draft, indicating that he had not accepted it, but still had been willing to sign it at the meeting on October 26, 2023.

While many issues remained unresolved in 2023, the beginning of 2024 also brought its share of challenges. On February 1, 2024, the Regulation on Cash Operations of the Central Bank of Kosovo (CBK) entered into force. This regulation establishes the euro as the only valid currency for making cash payments in Kosovo’s national payment system. It prohibits use of the dinar, which is predominantly used in Serb-majority municipalities. The Quint ambassadors and the EU disagreed with this decision and insisted on a transition phase before the regulation takes effect and requested that this issue be addressed as part of the dialogue.

Initially, the Kurti government refused to include the issue of the dinar in the EU-mediated dialogue, considering it an internal issue of Kosovo. However, discussions about this issue are now being included within the dialogue. On March 19, 2024, Besnik Bislimi and Petar Petković, the chief negotiators, met in Brussels to discuss the CBK regulation.

Throughout the developments of 2023, the EU and the U.S. insisted on the establishment of the Association, viewing it as a step towards resolving the ongoing issues that persisted during that year. During this period, tensions rose between Kurti’s government and the U.S and the EU. U.S. representatives reiterated that relations with Kosovo’s government had been compromised due to the government’s failure to coordinate its actions and address U.S. requests. The U.S. and the EU said they have problems communicating with the Kurti government. Meanwhile, Kurti and Bislimi repeatedly publicly accused Miroslav Lajčák, the EU mediator in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, of bias in the dialogue.

Considering the slow progress of the Association’s formation and the challenging broader political context, it appears unlikely that the Kurti government will complete this process within its current mandate. It is more likely that issues will be carried over into the next mandate from whichever party comes to power after the elections, which are expected to be held in 2025.

Bigger budget, poorer citizens

The state budgets for 2023 and 2024 saw an increase compared to previous years, something that the government has sought to take credit for. However, Kosovo’s budget typically grows from year to year and the rise in 2023 does not necessarily reflect increased economic development. Moreover, the 2023 budget saw an additional increase due to rising prices as a result of the high inflation in Kosovo. According to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics (KAS), consumer prices increased by 4.9% in 2023 over what they were in 2022.

Economic growth during 2023

Source: Central Bank of Kosovo
*Assessment of CBK for Q4 in the Economy Report for Q3.

The consistent increase in prices has made many Kosovar citizens relatively poorer than they were in 2021. A survey published by UNDP in February 2024 showed concerning data about the impact that inflation had on families. 44% of households reported buying fewer products while spending more, while the number of households spending 200 euros or more on groceries also increased.

Inflation during 12 months

Source: Kosovo Agency of Statistics

The rise in the price of groceries was also affected by an increase in the cost of electricity. Electricity prices increased by over 15% in April 2023, on top of the increases that already occurred in 2022. In 2023, as in the previous year, the government subsidized the bills of some of the most vulnerable consumers, such as those receiving social assistance and pensioners. Additionally, subsidies were allocated for the purchase of efficient heating equipment for consumers in need.

% of households that spent over 200 or more euros on groceries

Source: UNDP, Poverty in the face of inflation: Evidence from a survey

The government has attributed the economic growth in 2023 to the increase in exports and foreign direct investment (FDI).

There are two important aspects to consider regarding exports. First, there has been a decrease in the export of goods. Secondly, the growth in exports predominantly occurred in the services sector and mainly in the travel category, which includes the purchase of services by the diaspora or tourists.

The growth of FDI remains concentrated in the construction and real estate sectors. According to CBK, this reflects the Kosovar diaspora’s demand for real estate in Kosovo. Of approximately 245 million euros of investments in the third quarter of 2023, 152 million were in the real estate sector. FDI in the real estate sector, such as housing purchases, may not have as much of an impact on economic growth (since it mainly involves financial transactions) as the investment in the manufacturing sector would.

Economic growth over the years

Source: Kosovo Agency of Statistics
*As of March 22, 2023, according to KAS, economic growth for 2022 was 3.2%, but KAS corrected this data to 5.2%.

According to some economists, the concentration of export growth in services and FDI in the real estate sector does not speak of any larger change in government policies for more radical economic development.

There is no evidence indicating an increase in salaries amidst the rising cost of living for Kosovo citizens. KAS has not provided updated data on the salary level for 2022 or 2023. The latest data for 2021 shows that the average net monthly salary in Kosovo was 432 euros. A law approved by the Assembly on July 13, 2023 proposed raising the minimum wage from 130-170 euros to 264 euros. However, the law was strongly opposed, with critics arguing that it was neither sufficient nor comprehensive. As a result, it was taken to the Constitutional Court where it is still under review.

KAS also does not provide updated data regarding employment. For example, KAS published the data on the labor force for 2022 in August 2023, while the data for the first three months of 2023 was only published in January 2024. This creates difficulties in tracking unemployment trends and the opening of new jobs, as well as in verifying the data provided by the government.

According to the government, over its 32 months of governing — 2021, 2022 and 2023 — 60,000 new jobs have been created. Both the government and KAS have emphasized the decrease in unemployment, which dropped from 25% in 2021 to 11.8% in 2022. But these figures have been contested. According to some economists, that drop in unemployment reflects the emigration of citizens and the formalization of jobs, rather than new employment.

According to KAS, about 43,000 people emigrated in 2021 alone. The formalization of jobs contributes more to a more accurate reflection of active employment and also helps the state budget, as businesses pay mandatory taxes to the state and workers contribute to the pension fund. However, job formalization in itself does not indicate new employment.

Throughout 2023, the government continued its efforts to formalize the workforce by subsidizing wages for the employment of young people and women. This initiative was facilitated through the Superpuna platform. Meanwhile, the Tax Administration of Kosovo (TAK) and Labor Inspectorate have started inspecting businesses, aiming to identify unregistered workers and facilitate their registration.

Despite these measures, a large portion of the labor market remains inactive. As reported by KAS, about 61% of the total working-age population falls into this category; as such individuals are not seeking employment, they are not officially classified as unemployed. This figure has remained almost the same as pre-pandemic and affects mostly women, who make up 78% of the inactive workforce.

Despite the government’s declarations of economic growth and new jobs, Kosovars continue to identify poverty, unemployment and inflation as the three most urgent problems currently facing Kosovo.

The three most urgent problems Kosovo faces:

Source: Summary of Public Pulse XXV, UNDP

One way to create new jobs is through capital investments, such as building roads or schools. According to a 2021 study by the International Monetary Fund, every one million euros invested in public infrastructure in developing countries creates 30 new jobs. Additionally, capital investment also contributes to economic growth, creating jobs at companies that then pay taxes on their profits.

Realization rate of capital investments 2013 - 2023

Source: GAP Institute

Through September 2023, the Kurti government had executed 35% of the capital investments planned for that year. In the 2024 draft budget, capital expenditures are expected to be around 4.5% more than in 2023. Of these, about 83% are continuations of ongoing projects, with the remaining 17% allocated for new initiatives. According to analysis by the GAP institute, delays in implementing these capital investments stem from improper planning and insufficient implementation capacities.

Unconstitutional draft laws

The Constitutional Court of Kosovo has had more work than usual during the Kurti government. The opposition parties — the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) — have sent several laws initiated by the government and approved by the Assembly to have their constitutionality assessed by this court. During the three years of the government, 10 laws have been sent to the Constitutional Court for review.

Graphic showing laws sent to the Constitutional Court

Source: Kosovo Law Institute

According to a report by the Kosovar Law Institute (KLI), the Constitutional Court has declared 26 cases regarding governmental and parliamentary decisions as unconstitutional over the course of its existence. Among these, 10 cases, or 36%, pertain to decisions made by the current government or legislature.

Meanwhile, Kosovo’s government has consistently criticized opposition parties for sending draft laws to the Constitutional Court, which, it argues, hinders implementation of the legislative program and consequently the comprehensive reform that VV promised. Furthermore, the government has often criticized the Constitutional Court, alleging that its declarations of laws are unconstitutional and delaying revisions of laws, hinders reform in general.

The 2023 European Commission report on Kosovo criticized the approval of some essential laws through an accelerated legislative procedure. According to the report, out of 104 laws approved in the Assembly of Kosovo between June 2022 and June 2023, 21 were approved using an accelerated procedure, without sufficient efforts to build consensus on key parts of the legal framework. The report highlighted that the Law on Salaries and the Law on Public Officials are two laws that were approved this way, which the opposition then referred to the Constitutional Court.

Justice reform, a central pledge of the Kurti government, is progressing slowly. The Constitutional Court opened the way for a partial vetting process that involves vetting the chief prosecutors, presidents of courts, members of the Prosecution Council of Kosovo (KPC) and the Judicial Council. Contrary to VV’s promises, full vetting will not be implemented and even partial vetting does not appear feasible within this mandate.

The new draft law for the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC), aimed at reforming this judicial body, was approved in the Assembly in the first reading on March 7, 2024. Civil society organizations criticized the government for failing to incorporate the Constitutional Court’s findings, the Venice Commission’s opinion and civil society recommendations into the draft law for the KPC. These recommendations included addressing concerns regarding the number of KPC members and the inclusion of the Ombudsman in the selection process of members of the KPC who are not prosecutors.

No new state recognition

The Kurti government has entered its fourth year without receiving any new recognition for the state of Kosovo. Israel was the last state to recognize Kosovo, doing so in 2020.

In January of this year, when the visa regime was lifted for Kosovo within the Schengen area, the government celebrated it as its achievement. However, Kosovo had already met all the conditions for visa liberalization back in 2018, before the beginning of the current government’s mandate. Visa liberalization had been withheld by the EU since then.

In January, the government announced that the United Arab Emirates and Israel had also lifted visa requirements for Kosovo.

In May 2022, the government initiated Kosovo’s application to join the Council of Europe (CoE). It remains to be seen whether this will succeed following the government’s decision this month to implement the Constitutional Court’s ruling to transfer 24 hectares of land to the Visoki Dečani Monastery. The implementation of this ruling was one of the key requirements outlined in the initial report from CoE experts. This report assessed the compatibility of Kosovo’s legal system with CoE standards.

The Visoki Dečani Monastery


In 2016, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo, through its decision, confirmed the Monastery’s right of ownership over the contested land. This decision rejected the 2015 decision of the Appeals Panel of the Special Chamber of the Supreme Court of Kosovo to return the case to the Basic Court in Dečan. The Constitutional Court also determined that the Supreme Court’s previous decision from 2012, which confirmed the Monastery’s right of ownership over the land in dispute, is “res judicata,” i.e. a binding decision.

When VV was an opposition party, it opposed the Constitutional Court’s 2016 decision on the Visoki Dečani Monastery. In February 2022 Prime Minister Kurti  repeated his position that the decision was unacceptable and is based on the “discriminatory policy of the Government of Serbia from 1997.” On March 13, Kurti announced that the government asked the Kosovo Cadastral Agency to implement the Constitutional Court’s decision.

The report also specifies that Kosovo must establish the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities and cease the expropriation of properties in the north when those expropriations are not in accordance with the Constitution of Kosovo. The expropriation of lands in the north, which began in August 2022, did not adhere to Kosovo’s legal framework. The report demands that the Government of Kosovo refrains from any expropriation that does not fully align with the Constitution of Kosovo and legal standards. It also mandates that the government transparently communicates the reasons behind any necessary expropriations to the public. 

Additionally, the report urges the government to respect judicial independence by refraining from making public statements that criticize court decisions, as such actions have the potential to undermine trust in the judicial system. This report will assist the Parliamentary Assembly in drafting its opinion for the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe when Kosovo’s request is voted on in April 2024.

Membership in the CoE — Europe’s leading organization in the protection of human rights — would enable Kosovo citizens to appeal to the International Court of Human Rights. CoE membership would also grant Kosovo access to many mechanisms that fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law.

Following the government’s decision regarding the Visoki Dečani Monastery on March 13, 2024, optimism regarding Kosovo’s potential membership in the CoE increased. However, optimism for membership faded when the issue of association formation and expropriation were brought to public attention as potential issues.

Poor performance in PISA

While the 2022-2023 school year started one month late due to teacher’s strikes, the 2023-2024 school year began without books. Since 2008, the Ministry of Education has distributed free books to primary school students. However, just a few days before the start of the 2023-2024 school year, the ministry announced that its negotiations with publishing houses had failed and could not provide the books as they had in previous years.

The ministry announced that parents would need to purchase the books themselves and then be reimbursed. The refund application platform was opened a week before the start of the school year, yet many parents were not reimbursed until after September 1, 2023. Some parents, especially those facing more difficult economic circumstances, told media outlets that the ministry’s decision made it difficult for them to purchase the books on time.

The 2022 international PISA test results, which were published in December 2023, showed a decline in Kosovo students’ rankings compared to 2018. Out of 80 participating countries, Kosovo students were ranked 76th in reading and 74th in mathematics. Compared to 2018, Kosovo’s performance dropped by 11 points in mathematics and reading. In science, Kosovo was ranked 77th, with an eight-point drop.

Average PISA scores for 2018 and 2022

Source: OECD

Minister of Education Arbërie Nagavci attributed the poor results to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the Kurti government has not implemented any structural changes aimed at improving these results.

Only 4 out of 160 promised kindergartens were built

PISA indicates that children under five who participate in early childhood education perform notably better. In Kosovo, only around 7% of children aged 0-5 years participate in early education. One reason for this is the shortage of public nurseries. According to KAS, there are around 130,000 children in this age group in Kosovo, yet only 49 public and 177 private operational nurseries.

One of the government pledges was to build 160 kindergartens, aiming to expand early education from 7% to 24% for children aged 0-5 years. In three years of governance, the government has financed the building of four nurseries, with 26 more under construction, six school’s being adapted into nurseries and eight currently in the tendering process.

In July 2023, the government approved the Law on Early Childhood Education, mandating pre-primary education for children from the age of 5. Until now, only primary education was compulsory.

Human rights

In June 2023, Kurti participated in the pride parade after not attending during the first two years of the mandate. While their leader joined the parade under the motto “T’du qashtu qysh je,” [I love you the way you are] some of the deputies of the VV parliamentary group are remembered as the most vocal opponents of the draft Civil Code, which aimed to legalize civil unions between individuals of the same sex. The Civil Code was last voted on in March 2022, when VV MPs Burim Meta, Gramoz Agusholli and Labinotë Demi-Murtezi opposed the law with homophobic language and displayed their lack of information about the topic. Ultimately, the law did not receive the necessary votes from a majority of parliament to pass.

Although it has been worked on since 2014, a new draft law of the Civil Code failed to be brought to a vote in 2023, despite its vital importance in many aspects of private and public life, particularly in terms of advancing the rights of women and children. The adoption of the Civil Code would establish 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage. Additionally, the proposed law would prohibit any reconciliation procedures aimed at saving the marriage in cases of domestic and gender-based violence.

It also seems that not much has changed in 2024 regarding LGBTQ+ rights. The Committee on Human Rights, Gender Equality, Victims Sexual Violence During the War, Missing Persons and Petitions held a meeting with civil society organizations under the theme of “The current situation in the protection and promotion of human rights in Kosovo,” on February 7, 2024. During the meeting, Demi-Murtezi used similar language to that used in the March 2022 session, stating that sexual relations between same sex individuals are the cause of serious diseases.

Following this meeting, on March 1, 2024, which is Zero Discrimination Day, a group of human rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the Assembly of Kosovo and Demi-Murtezi in the Basic Court of Prishtina. The lawsuit accuses the Assembly and Demi-Murtezi of discrimination and violating the dignity of LGBTQ+ individuals. Their lawsuit cites the discriminatory language used by Murtezi during the Session of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo on March 16, 2022. These organizations also sent a complaint to the Ombudsman Institution. They also sent an open letter to Kurti and the head of the VV parliamentary group, Mimoza Kusari-Lila, demanding that Kurti and Kusari-Lila dismiss Demi-Murtezi from the Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, gender-based violence persisted, with 2,120 women reported as the victims of domestic violence in 2023. Kurti spoke about his government’s feminist policies on March 8, 2024. Kurti’s feminist image was compromised later that day, when during the annual March 8 march, activists were not allowed to access the entrance stairs of the government building, where a speech is traditionally read. In the area outside the government building, where fences had been removed by the Kurti government in April 2020 with the rationale that there should be no barriers between the citizens and the government, a police cordon including special unit officers was stationed. There were clashes between the activists and the police.

The focus of this year’s march was women’s bodily autonomy, which ties into the ongoing discussions regarding the Reproductive Health and Medically Assisted Fertilization (IVF) draft law. These discussions date back to 2023 and have stretched into 2024. This legislation was initially submitted to the Assembly for a vote in March 2023. Article 15 of the draft law, which recognizes unmarried women over the age of 18’s right to medically assisted fertilization, sparked disagreements within the VV parliamentary group

The draft law did not pass due to the Assembly not meeting quorum when the vote was scheduled to occur. The law was returned to the Assembly several times at the beginning of 2024, but it still did not come to vote as the Assembly repeatedly failed to reach quorum. VV MPs Eman Rrahmani and Visar Korenica have remained particularly vocal opponents of this law and have obstructed its voting. They demand that IVF be exclusively available for married couples, arguing that they want to protect the family as an institution and that children born through these procedures should have the right to know their father. According to the MARShojmë S’festojmë feminist collective, this approach proves that they do not consider women as individuals with the ability to make decisions about their bodies and reproductive futures.

While the Kurti government concluded its third year with a primary focus on the dialogue with Serbia and developments in the north of Kosovo, the daily challenges faced by citizens, especially those from the marginalized communities, persisted. 

K2.0 reporting throughout 2023 showed that the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities continue to have difficulties in accessing the labor market and health services. Women with disabilities and people with autism also have limited access to health services. In addition to the challenges in accessing health services, people with autism have limited access to education as they have difficulty covering their expenses with government-provided monthly allowance of 100 euros. Meanwhile, elderly citizens who are left without care struggle to cover essential expenses with a monthly pension of only 100 euros.

Moreover, workers’ rights continue to be compromised. The Labor Inspectorate overlooks certain categories of workers and generally inadequately protects labor rights.

With only one year remaining, it seems unlikely that the Kurti government will have enough time to implement the significant changes necessary to achieve its promised objectives.

Additional reporting from Aulonë Kadriu and Uran Haxha.

Feature Image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.

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