By Jeton Musliu
Plans to hand out a new medal, the Order of Independence, on the fifth anniversary of Kosovo’s independence, have raised a number of tricky questions.
Plans to hand out medals to officials to mark the fifth anniversary of Kosovo’s independence on February 17 have drawn complaints about whether pampered officialdom needs such rewards.
On Independence Day, a delegation will visit the graves of two national heroes, the Kosovo Liberation Army commander Adem Jashari and Kosovo’s veteran independence leader and first President, Ibrahim Rugova.
Members of the Kosovo Security Force will hold a parade and in the evening, a concert will feature some of the country’s biggest musical acts. A firework display is planned.
While none of that is controversial, there is less agreement about the other item on the agenda of the committee organising the festivities.
This involves handing out medals to all those involved in bringing Kosovo into statehood – even if it amounted to little more than casting a vote for independence in parliament in 2008.
The President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, is known to be considering a proposal to award a special “Order of Independence” to all those who negotiated Kosovo’s final status, as well as those who were MPs at the time of independence.
It is unclear whether all 120 MPs at the time would get the medals or just those who voted for the declaration.
The 11 ethnic Serb MPs in parliament boycotted the session that voted for independence, while the remaining 109 unanimously voted for the declaration.
Another question relates to whether MPs should get the medal if they have since been charged with an offence.
Some politicians up for the medal have since been convicted of crimes, or are under investigation.
Article 22 of the Regulation for the Types and Procedures in Awarding Medals prohibits this.
“Proposals [for medals] cannot be made for people sentenced for serious crimes, or who are under investigation,” it reads.
Balkan Insight has identified at least four current or former MPs who should thus be ineligible for honours because of their criminal convictions or ongoing prosecutions.
One is Bujar Bukoshi, from the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, who is accused of misusing his official position and now is on trial, having resigned as Deputy Prime Minister.
Fatmir Limaj, an MP from the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, is another case. Accused of war crimes, organized crime, misuse of position, bribery and money laundering, he faces two trials and is currently in detention.
Nexhat Daci, head of the Democratic League of Dardania and a former president of the Assembly, was convicted in 2010 of using taxpayers’ money to pay for dental work and to buy spectacles.
Rrustem Mustafa, another MP for the PDK, is accused of war crimes and is on trial.
Arber Vllahiu, a spokesman for President Jahjaga, said he could not confirm whether the above mentioned politicians would be excluded from the planned commendations.
“The presidency will soon establish a committee to review the proposals but I haven’t seen them,” he said.
Nazim Haliti, deputy head of the Forum for Civic Initiatives, said he was opposed to the whole the idea of giving MPs medals, whether or not they had convictions.
“It is too much,” he said, referring to the 500 euro that all Kosovo MPs were awarded in 2008 for signing the declaration of independence.
“They get a salary for the work they do as those elected by the people,” he said,” and with a shameful decision they also gave themselves 500 euro, for ‘working hard’ in declaring independence,” he snorted.
The Balkan Insight (forner the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes.
BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention.
Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.