Albin Kurti

Albin Kurti (born 24 March 1975) is a Kosovar Albanian politician and activist serving as the prime minister of Kosovo[a] since 22 March 2021, having previously served in that role between February and June 2020. He came to prominence in 1997 as the vice-president of the University of Prishtina student union, and a main organizer of non-violent demonstrations in 1997 and 1998. When Adem Demaçi became the political representative of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Kurti worked in his office. He has been member of the Assembly of Kosovo since 2010 in three consecutive legislatures.

Albin Kurti
PM Albin Kurti during the first meeting of the Government of the Republic of Kosovo 3 (cropped).jpg
Kurti in 2020
4th Prime Minister of Kosovo
Assumed office
22 March 2021
PresidentGlauk Konjufca (acting)
Vjosa Osmani
Preceded byAvdullah Hoti
In office
3 February 2020 – 3 June 2020
PresidentHashim Thaçi
Preceded byRamush Haradinaj
Succeeded byAvdullah Hoti
Leader of the Opposition
In office
3 June 2020 – 22 March 2021
Preceded byKadri Veseli
Succeeded byEnver Hoxhaj
In office
9 December 2014 – 3 February 2020
Preceded byIsa Mustafa
Succeeded byKadri Veseli
Leader of Vetëvendosje
Assumed office
21 January 2018
Preceded byVisar Ymeri
In office
12 June 2005 – 28 February 2015
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byVisar Ymeri
Personal details
Born (1975-03-24) 24 March 1975 (age 46)
Pristina, Yugoslavia
(now Kosovo)
Political partyVetëvendosje
Spouse(s)Rita Augestad Knudsen
EducationUniversity of Pristina
Signature
Military service
Political representativeKosovo Liberation Army

Early lifeEdit

Albin Kurti was born on 24 March 1975 in Pristina, at the time part of Yugoslavia. Kurti's father originates from an Albanian family from the village of Sukobin (Albanian: Sukubinë) in Ulcinj Municipality, Montenegro. Kurti's father, an engineer, moved to Pristina in search for employment. Kurti's mother is a retired elementary school teacher, born and educated in Pristina.[1] Kurti finished his elementary and middle education in Prishtina. In 1993 he got admitted at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Pristina as a top applicant, having scored 100% in the admission exam. He graduated in 2003 in Telecommunications and Computer Engineering.[2][3]

He is married to Norwegian Rita Augestad Knudsen, and they have a daughter named Lea.

Rise to prominence and arrestEdit

In Pristina, Kurti attended primary and secondary schools from 1981-1993, then studied electrical engineering at the University of Pristina. During this time, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke up into its former republics, which were now striving for independence (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro). Against the background of increasing ethnic tensions between Kosovar Serbs and Kosovar Albanians, Serbia began in 1989 with a withdrawal of essential Kosovao-Albanian rights and reprisals against the Albanian majority. The Kosovar Albanian professors and students at the University of Pristina were therefore forced to move the lectures to private rooms from 1991-1996, where Kurti also completed his studies. In 2001 he was still studying computer science.[4]

 
Albin Kurti in the 1990s

Albin Kurti first came to prominence in October 1997, as one of the leaders of the student protests in Kosovo. Albanian students protested against the occupation of the university campus by the Yugoslav police. The protests were crushed violently, but the students and Kurti did not stop the resistance and they organized other protests in the following years. In July 1998, Kurti joined the Kosovo Liberation Army as an assistant of the political representative Adem Demaçi. These actions made him a target of the Yugoslav police.[3][5]

In April 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Kurti was arrested and beaten by Yugoslav forces.[6] He was first sent to the Dubrava prison, but as the Serbian army withdrew from Kosovo, they transferred him to a prison in Požarevac on 10 June 1999.[3] Later that year, he was charged with "jeopardizing Yugoslavia's territorial integrity and conspiring to commit an enemy activity linked to terrorism" and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.[7]

Political careerEdit

Kurti was released in December 2001 by Yugoslavia's post-Milošević government after being pardoned by President Vojislav Koštunica[8] amid international pressure. Since his release, he has worked outside party politics in Kosovo but has been a severe critic of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and of corruption. He organised non-violent protests in support of the families of those whose relatives disappeared in the war, and in favor of Kosovo's self-determination. On 23 April 2003 Kurti graduated with a degree in Computer and Telecommunications Sciences from the University of Prishtina. He was an activist for the Action for Kosovo Network (AKN), which was formed in 1997, and was a movement whose mission focused on human rights and social justice, education, culture and art.[citation needed]

 
Albin Kurti in a Vetëvendosje demonstration, 2013

On 12 June 2005 AKN activists wrote the slogan "No negotiations, Self-Determination" on the on walls of UNMIK buildings. The police with the help of UN Police, arrested, jailed and convicted hundreds of activists, including Kurti. AKN then changed its name to the Self-Determination Movement (Vetëvendosje). Vetëvendosje demanded a referendum on the status of Kosovo, stating "only with a referendum as a use of international right for self-determination, we can realise a democratic solution for Kosovo instead of negotiations which compromise freedom".[9]

In February 2007 Vetëvendosje organized a protest against the Ahtisaari Plan, which according to them divided Kosovo along ethnic lines and did not give the people of Kosovo what they were striving for. The protest turned violent and the Romanian UN Police killed two unarmed protesters and injured 80 others with plastic and rubber bullets. Kurti was arrested. He was detained until July, and then kept under house arrest. Amnesty International criticised the irregularities in his prosecution. He was eventually sentenced to nine months. Kurti was an advocate of "active nonviolent resistance".[10]

Vetëvendosje joined the political spectrum of Kosovo by running in the elections of 2010 for the first time. Albin Kurti was the candidate for prime-minister, though Vetëvendosje only scored 12.69% and won 14 out of 120 seats in the assembly, becoming the third political force in the country. On 14 January 2012, Vetëvendosje! organised a peaceful demonstration but the police again used force, allegedly with orders from Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi and Minister of Internal Affairs Bajram Rexhepi.[citation needed] Vetëvendosje criticized the Brussels Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. The Vetëvendosje MPs, including Kurti, were escorted out of the parliament by police for disrupting the session of the assembly.[11]

Kurti ran for prime minister again in the following elections in 2014, but Vetëvendosje was third again, only gaining 16 seats. Vetëvendosje and Kurti personally were involved in the protests within the parliament that earned international attention by setting off tear gas in the parliament on multiple cases.[12][13] Kurti was arrested in a spectacular show of force by the police in November 2015.[14]

In the 2017 election Vetëvendosje doubled in size, becoming the biggest political party in Kosovo and winning 32 seats (the most as an individual party compared to other parties in that election); his party took 200.135 votes (27,49%).[15] They were still defeated by the big PANA coalition that took 245.627 (33,74%). Albin Kurti became the most-voted politician in Kosovo. During this term Kurti was the leader of the opposition and Vetëvendosje managed to put strong pressure on the government in coordination with the other opposition party, LDK. On 3 January 2018 Kurti was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in prison on probation for his role in setting off the tear-gas in 2015.[16]

Prime minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned in July 2019, taking Kosovo to early elections in October 2019. In the elections that followed, Kurti's Vetëvendosje won the largest share of the electorate with 221.001 (26,270%)(29 seats) and remained the first political force in Kosovo, with Kurti's share of votes increasing further in comparison to 2017. He became prime minister of Kosovo in early February 2020.

On 26 November 2019, an earthquake struck Albania. Kurti visited Durrës on Friday to survey the damage and stressed the importance for institutional cooperation between both Kosovo and Albania.[17][18]

On 18 March 2020, Kurti sacked Interior Minister Agim Veliu (LDK) due to his support for declaring a state of emergency to handle the coronavirus pandemic, which would had given power to the Kosovo Security Council chaired by Hashim Thaçi (PDK). The Democratic League of Kosovo, the junior partner leader of the coalition, filed a no-confidence vote motion in retaliation for the sacking and on 25 March 82 members of the Kosovo Assembly voted in favor of the motion becoming the first government to be voted out of power due to disagreements over how to handle the coronavirus pandemic.[19][20][21]

The Kurti cabinet continued as a caretaker government,[22][23] until 3 June 2020, when Avdullah Hoti was elected as the next Prime Minister.[24]

On 26 January 2021, Kurti was barred from running in the 2021 Kosovan parliamentary election by Kosovo’s election complaints panel, as he had been convicted of a crime less than three years prior to the election.[25] In spite of this, the party went on to win by a landslide with 50.28% of the vote.

Prime Minister of KosovoEdit

First termEdit

 
First Kurti cabinet

On 3 February 2020, Albin Kurti was elected Prime Minister of Kosovo with 66 votes[26] in favor and 10 abstains,[27] 34 opposition MPs boycotted the vote and left the Kosovo assembly building.

One of the first decisions by Kurti and his cabinet was to repeal the unpopular pay raise awarded to ministers by the preceding Haradinaj government and return salaries to their previous amount.[28] As a result, the prime minister's monthly wage set at €2,950 will return to €1,500 for Kurti.[28]

As part of his government's policy platform, Kurti seeks to introduce a three monthly period of military conscription service in Kosovo, and he views it important to the country's defences.[29][26]

Countries visitedEdit

List of official visits abroad made by Albin Kurti as Prime Minister.

# Country Date Cities visited Type of visit
1   Albania 11.02.2020 Tirana Official visit[30][31]
2   Germany 14.02.2020 Munich Munich Security Conference
3   United Kingdom 24.02.2020 London European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
4   Belgium 28.04.2021 Brussels Official visit[32]

Second TermEdit

 
Second Kurti cabinet

Kurti was elected prime minister of Kosovo for a second time on 22 March 2021 with 67 members of the assembly voting in favour and 30 members against.[33]

Political positionsEdit

Unification of Kosovo and AlbaniaEdit

Albin Kurti is a strong supporter of direct-democracy and he has often criticized the Constitution of Kosovo for not allowing direct referenda. One topic that he thinks should be decided on through a referendum is the unification of Kosovo and Albania.[34] Kurti has continuously criticized the third article of the constitution for not allowing the referendum to happen. In a rally with Vetëvendosje supporters in 2018, Kurti stated that "We want to have the right of Kosovo to join Albania, but we would not start the third Balkan war for this goal."[35] Following the 2019 election and Vetëvendosje's electoral success, Kurti stated that Kosovo Albanians were not after territorial and political unification with Albania at all costs and instead sought "integration with Albania and the EU, through the success of Kosovo as a state."[36]

SerbiaEdit

Kurti has been known of having a strong opinion on the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. He has continuously criticized Kosovo's position in its negotiations with Serbia, claiming that the dialogue should be based on conditions and reciprocity. He has further criticized Kosovo for not conditioning the dialogue with Serbia returning the bodies of missing persons from the Kosovo war buried in mass graves in Serbia, Serbia paying war reparations to Kosovo, and the return of the stolen pension funds and artifacts.[37] Following the 2019 election, Kurti said that "solid dialogue" and "reciprocity" was needed in the process of normalizing relations with Serbia. Kurti wants Kosovo to first negotiate with its Serb minority and the European Union, and then to go to negotiations with Serbia. He considers future dialogue with Kosovo's minorities and the European Union "a top priority" for going forward.[36]

United StatesEdit

During his first term as a prime minister, Kurti had a bad relationship with Donald Trump and his administration. Kurti accused the special envoy sent by Trump, Richard Grenell, of discussing the exchange of territories between Serbia and Kosovo.[38]

Kurti's opponent Hashim Thaçi was supported by Richard Grenell. Grenell has been demanding for weeks that Kosovo must unconditionally lift punitive tariffs imposed on imports from Serbia so that a "deal" he has championed, namely the establishment of direct rail and air connections between Kosovo and Serbia, can be enforced as soon as possible. Kurti countered this by saying that Kosovo could only lift the tariffs if Serbia, for its part, also abolished trade restrictions.[39]

In October 2020, Kurti endorsed the Democratic nominee Joe Biden to become US president.[40]

NotesEdit

a.   ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008. Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently (this note self-updates) recognized as an independent state by 98 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 113 UN member states recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ [1] Archived 28 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine, albinkurti.weebly.com; accessed 27 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Rezultatet e provimeve të Albin Kurtit në universitet, profesorët flasin për të si student". gazetaexpress.com (in Albanian). 6 November 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Albin Kurti". vetevendosje.org (in Albanian). Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  4. ^ "portrait/Albin+Kurti". munzinger (in German). Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Historia e Kurtit, si u bë pjesë e Unionit Studentor gjatë viteve 97-ta dhe u shfaq si kryesori". insajderi.com (in Albanian). Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  6. ^ Profile Archived 2010-04-26 at the Wayback Machine, alb-net.com; accessed 13 April 2014.
  7. ^ Jail sentence for Kurti Archived 2009-04-29 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 13 April 2014.
  8. ^ "Gani Koci objavio dokument kojim je Koštunica pomilovao Kurtija - Kosovo Online". www.kosovo-online.com (in Serbian). Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  9. ^ [2], albinkurti.weebly.com; accessed 13 April 2014.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 January 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), newkosovareport.com; accessed 13 April 2014.
  11. ^ "Kosovo Assembly ratifies the 'Brussels Agreement'". European Centre for Minority Issues. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Kosovo parliament disrupted again after MPs set off teargas". theguardian.com. 15 October 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Kosovo Opposition Releases Tear Gas in Parliament". nytimes.com. 19 February 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  14. ^ "Kosovo MP Kurti Sent to High-Security Jail". balkaninsight.com. 30 November 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  15. ^ (PDF) http://www.kqz-ks.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/1.-Rezultatet-e-p%C3%ABrgjithshme-sipas-Subjekteve.pdf. Retrieved 1 July 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "Kosovo Court Finds Four Opposition MPs Guilty". balkaninsight.com. 3 January 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  17. ^ Kostreci, Keida (30 November 2019). "Albania Search, Rescue Operation For Earthquake Survivors Ends". Voice of America (VOA). Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Haradinaj e Kurti e vizitojnë Shqipërinë pas tërmetit" (in Albanian). RTV 21. 29 November 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  19. ^ "Kosovo's Crisis-Hit Govt Threatened with No-Confidence Vote". BalkanInsight. 19 March 2020. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020.
  20. ^ "Kosovo govt toppled by no-confidence vote amid coronavirus". 25 March 2020. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  21. ^ "Virus Response Topples First European Government in Kosovo". 26 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Kosovo government falls in vote of no confidence". The Guardian. 26 March 2020.
  23. ^ "Coronavirus helps bring down Kosovo's government, with nudge from US". The Indian Express. The New York Times. 26 March 2020.
  24. ^ "Avdullah Hoti Kryeministër i ri, 61 deputetë japin votën pro". Gazeta Express (in Albanian). 28 May 2020. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  25. ^ Bami, Xhorxhina (26 January 2021). "Kosovo Ex-PM Albin Kurti Barred from Running in Election". BalkanInsight.com. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  26. ^ a b Bytyci, Fatos (4 February 2020). "Kosovo approves new government, PM vows to be tough negotiator with Serbia". Reuters. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  27. ^ http://top-channel.tv/2020/02/03/albin-kurti-zgjidhet-kryeminister-i-kosoves-me-66-vota-pro/
  28. ^ a b Bami, Xhorxhina (12 February 2020). "New Kurti Cabinet Repeals Former Kosovo Government's Decisions". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  29. ^ Bami, Xhorxhina (17 February 2020). "Kurti Vows to Make Military Service Compulsory in Kosovo". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  30. ^ "Kosovo's New PM Visits Albania in First Official Trip Abroad". The New York Time. 11 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  31. ^ Semini, Llazar (12 February 2020). "Kosovo's new PM visits Albania in first official trip abroad". The Washington Times. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  32. ^ Kurti, Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo - Albin. "Kryeministri Kurti u prit në takim nga kryeministri belg, Alexander De Croo". Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo - Albin Kurti. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  33. ^ https://balkaninsight.com/2021/03/22/kosovo-parliament-elects-albin-kurti-as-prime-minister/
  34. ^ "Kosovo's Likely PM Says Relations With Serbia Should Be Based On 'Reciprocity'" (in Albanian). BBC Albanian. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  35. ^ "Albin Kurti: Kosovo rebel who dreams of being PM". France 24. 26 November 2018. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  36. ^ a b "Kosovo's Likely PM Says Relations With Serbia Should Be Based On 'Reciprocity'". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 10 October 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  37. ^ "Politiker Kurti: "Holt uns aus der Patsche, und bringt uns in die EU!"". Der Standard (in German). 5 October 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  38. ^ "kurti-accuses-grenell-of-discussing-the-exchange-of-territory". europeanwesternbalkans. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  39. ^ "corona-umgang-in-kosovo-fuehrt-zum-sturz-der-regierung". faz (in German). Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  40. ^ Bami, Xhorxhina (20 October 2020). "Joe Biden Woos America's Bosnian, Albanian Voters Before Polls". Balkaninsight. Retrieved 24 October 2020.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Ramush Haradinaj
Prime Minister of Kosovo
2020
Succeeded by
Avdullah Hoti
Preceded by
Avdullah Hoti
Prime Minister of Kosovo
2021–present
Incumbent