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Kosovo Analysts Question Thaci’s Referendum Initiative – Analysis

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Kosovo President Hashim Thaci suggested holding a referendum on his recent proposal for a ‘correction of borders’ between Kosovo and Serbia, but Pristina-based analysts question its legality.

By Perparim Isufi

Hashim Thaci has suggested a referendum on proposals to change borders as part of a deal between Kosovo and Serbia to normalise relations, but analysts pointed out that no law currently exists in Kosovo that would allow such a plebiscite.

On Tuesday, Thaci said that he had rejected the partition of Kosovo or the exchange of territories as part of a deal with Serbia, but proposed putting any agreement with Belgrade to a popular vote.

“In such a situation, there is no other way than strengthening the decision-making of the citizens of Kosovo by allowing them decide who is right and which option is in Kosovo’s interest. Thus it is necessary to make the right to a referendum possible for citizens, and I am working to make it a reality,” Thaci wrote on Facebook.

The current legal framework does not allow Kosovo to hold a referendum because parliament has not adopted yet a law on it.

“For 10 years now, political leaders did not want to have a Law on Referendums through which citizens could initiate issues for a vote… It is a must for Kosovo to have such a law, and it should be a priority for parliament to approve it,” Mazllum Baraliu, a Law University professor, told BIRN.

“It cannot be done within days,” Baraliu added.

Currently, Kosovo MPs are on summer vacation and so far, there has been no action to draft any such law.

Baraliu said he saw other hurdles impeding Thaci’s idea.

“Issues that are in contradiction with the constitution cannot be up for a referendum,” he said.

The Kosovo Status Proposal drafted by diplomat Martti Ahtisaari, based on which Kosovo declared its independence in February 2008, says that “Kosovo shall have no territorial claims against and shall seek no union with, any State or part of any State”.

It also while bans referendums on proposals contradicting any provision of the document, which served as basis for drafting Kosovo Constitution.

But Kosovo political scientist Krenar Gashi told BIRN that the most important thing was to secure an agreement with Serbia.

“The issue is not whether Kosovo can organise a referendum, but rather whether we will be able to reach a treaty with Serbia and have both the US and Russia guarantee it on top of the EU. If such a treaty is reached, it would accelerate the consolidation of Kosovo’s statehood and organising referenda to support it would be a piece of cake,” Gashi said.

“There are two important issues to consider. First, that we live in the most unpredictable times when it comes to international politics. Second, that we have a long border with Serbia which we will need to mark and agree on. That means we will have to talk with Serbia about territory, sooner or later. Yet it won’t be about major exchanges,” he added.


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Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin 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.

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