Today is the eighth anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia, but in lieu of celebrating, plenty of Kosovars in Pristina opted to mark the day by demanding their government’s resignation:
Thousands of protesters marched through Kosovo’s capital Wednesday on the eighth anniversary of independence from Serbia, calling for the government to step down and hold snap elections.
After a morning of official anniversary celebrations in the capital Pristina, including a military parade, flag-waving demonstrators gathered amid tight security.
The two-hour rally went off peacefully, despite fears it would turn violent like other recent protests.
“We want to remove (Prime Minister) Isa Mustafa and his fellow politicians. This is why we are gathered here today,” said Visar Ymeri, head of the opposition Self-Determination party, in a speech to the protesters.
“We say ‘no’ to this government. We are the alternative for progress,” he added, describing the current government members as “thieves” and “criminals”.
Albanian Kosovars are acutely unhappy with a recent EU-brokered deal between Kosovo and Serbia (which technically still doesn’t recognize Kosovo as an independent nation) that gives greater autonomy to Kosovo’s minority Serb population (they’re also upset about another deal, with Montenegro, that supposedly clarifies the border between the two countries but that protesters say cedes territory to Podgorica). These are the deals that spurred opposition politicians to tear gas Kosovo’s parliament three separate times last October. The opposition is wary of anything that might increase Serbia’s ability to involve itself in Kosovo’s internal affairs–not an unreasonable concern, given that Serbia officially doesn’t acknowledge that there can be such a thing as “Kosovo’s internal affairs”–and some are pushing for a referendum that would lead to Kosovo becoming part of Albania. Protests in Pristina over the Serbia deal in January ended with Molotov cocktails being thrown at the government headquarters building. This Vice News report includes video of that protest:
But in a deeper sense, Kosovars are frustrated with what has more or less been eight years of corrupt, ineffective governance. It’s hard to know for sure since the only source for numbers is the “Kosovo Agency of Statistics” (so, if anything, these numbers are probably low), but the unemployment rate in Kosovo as of 2014 was around 35%, the poverty rate was around 30%, and the youth unemployment rate was a staggering 60%. Before the Syrian refugee situation became a Europe-wide crisis, it was Kosovars who were streaming into Germany and elsewhere by the thousands. The country’s political leaders are purportedly up to their eyeballs in organized crime, and personal and political rights are regularly suppressed. So what Kosovars were really protesting today was eight years of rule by politicians who have allowed their country to fall into complete dysfunction in order to feed their own corruption and greed.
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