US and NATO criticize the idea of Kosovo army

Kosovo President’s move to transform the current Security Force into a regular army received a blow on Wednesday after both NATO and the US embassy criticised it.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he had spoken by phone on Wednesday with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Prime Minister Isa Mustafa to convey the “serious concerns of NATO allies” about recent proposals by the Kosovo authorities to transform the Kosovo Security Force, KSF, into an army without prior constitutional changes and consent across all communities.

“I made clear that unilateral steps such as these are unhelpful, and I urged the Kosovo authorities to remain in close contact with Belgrade,” Stoltenberg added.

The US embassy in Kosovo also expressed concern over the announced intention to change and broaden the mandate of the KSF without a constitutional amendment.

“We support the gradual, transparent transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into a multi-ethnic force in line with NATO standards. However, this transformation should be done in accordance with the Kosovo Constitution and through an inclusive and representative political process that reflects Kosovo’s multi-ethnic democracy,” the US embassy said.

The hostile reactions came a day after President Thaci handed Speaker of Parliament Kadri Veseli the proposed changes in a bill which would see the force strengthened in terms of its responsibilities and capacities.

On Wednesday, the presidency of parliament convened to review the proposal and send it to government for further elaboration.

Speaker Veseli, who started the day with a visit to KSF cadets, told them Kosovo was starting an “important process of transformation of the Force into an Army”.

“The President’s decision is in our country’s interest and has an entirely peaceful aim … but also with the sacred goal to defend our country,” Veseli said.

Later on Wednesday, he suggested that Kosovo had been compelled to take this initiative as a result of the blockade by Serbian MPs in parliament.

“During the last three years, we have tried to reach a consensus on the KSF’s transformation but we could not find understanding,” Veseli added.

Currently, the Kosovo Security Force has only limited competencies while national security remains in the hands of a NATO peacekeeping mission of around 5,000 soldiers from 30 member and partner states.

Constitutional amendments for the KSF’s transformation require a “double majority” in Kosovo’s parliament, meaning that two-thirds of the 100 Kosovo Albanian MPs and two-thirds of the 20 ethnic non-Albanian MPs need to vote in favour of them.

Kosovo Serbs hold 10 of the 20 seats reserved for minorities, effectively making them “kingmakers” in this process.

As Serbian MPs strongly oppose a Kosovo army, Thaci intended to bypass this blockade by proposing changes that would broaden the responsibilities of the existing Security Force without the need for constitutional amendments.

The initiative has angered the Serbian government, which also bitterly opposes any moves designed to reinforce Kosovo’s statehood – which Belgrade contests.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said in Belgrade on Wednesday that Serbia would do “everything it can” to prevent the creation of a Kosovo army.

“The establishment of Kosovo Army would violate [UN Security Council] Resolution 1244. Furthermore, although we don’t recognize it, this initiative even violates Kosovo’s own constitution,” Vucic told reporters.

He said he had raised this issue on Tuesday in a phone conversation with President Thaçi.

“I hope that someone will understand what Serbia is doing to safeguard peace and stability, and how much pressure is coming from the other sides,” Vucic added.

The Serbian Prime Minister said NATO was also obliged to prevent “Kosovo Forces from accessing the north of Kosovo”, meaning the Serbian strongholds in the far north of Kosovo.

By Perparim Isufi

(Balkan Insight, 08.03.2017)

http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/kosovo-army-bill-angers-nato-us-serbia-03-08-2017#sthash.rSSATHmf.dpuf

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