(Original text: March 25, 2021)
It is obvious that Kosovo, and even the Balkans, has entered a new era when Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti established the new cabinet by receiving a vote of confidence from the Assembly of Kosovo on March 22. It seems Kurti will address Kosovo's international politics within the framework of a pragmatic understanding of foreign policy. In order to understand this framework better, it is necessary to evaluate Kurti's influence on Balkan politics.
We ended our previous article by saying that we will discuss the political change in Kosovo within the context of the Balkan politics of the EU, USA and Russia in the post-Trump period. A glance at Balkan politics, the possible effects of the Kosovo elections on the Balkan geography is necessary before the promised article.
Before that, we would like to recall a point that we have criticized from time to time here: After the Kosovo elections, we did not see the usual cliché headlines in the Western media on possibility of a new warfare. Whenever there is an important development in the Balkans, the Western media is equipped with expert opinions claiming that "a new war may break out at any time". The Balkan “experts” in Turkey as well, who are tired of the right-conservatist crap on Balkans, who most often follow Balkans via Brussels or Washington fall into that fictive story that "a war may occur at any moment in the Balkans war". But this time, after the last elections, which unquestionably marks a new era in Kosovo, and even heralds the end of the war politics of the former UCK commanders, Vetevendosje’s, the party whose fundamental political programs aims at a “United Balkans” and her proud leader Albin Kurti’s victory did not cause usual “war cries”.
The Balkan experts do not care that Kurti is a follower of a program forging social development, social justice, state intervention and advocate of the rule of law and put forward a serious program against corruption and poverty, but what the new government that prioritizes these policies will bring to Balkan politics is important. Articles claiming that the political change in Kosovo will cause problems in Albania, confuse Macedonia, and even that the end of the political crisis that may emerge will touch Bosnia, will surely be released before the beginning of summer, as usual. It is a fact that tensions in the region will increase due to the coming to power of a party with a political program formed with the "United Albania" range. Will this be increasing tension pregnant with new crises and even wars? Is there any expectation of war in the Balkans this Summer, as every Summer?
Let's look at the clues given by the government established by Albin Kurti, who brought a new and completely different breath to Kosovo's politics, regarding the new period. Albin Kurti has not included other parties that have ruled Kosovo for years. Kurti, who has kept Rugova's party LDK and former UCK leader Hashim Thaci's party PDK out of the government, clearly shows that he will stay away from the traditional political style in the Balkans. As a matter of fact, Vetevendosje, who won the 14 February elections but won 58 out of 120 seats, went to the current president Vjosa Osmani's party, Guxo (Courage), the Serbian List, the Kosovo Roma party IRDK (Iniciativa e Re Demokratike e Kosovës: The New Democracy Initiative of Kosovo) and the Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo received 67 votes, more than 61 votes they needed to establish the cabinet, with the support of the minority parties holding 10 of the 120 seats.
The message given by Kurti, who also includes the Serb minority in Kosovo in his government, is very clear: It clearly demonstrates his goal to solve the Kosovo issue not with Serbia, but with the Serbs in Kosovo, by internalizing the Serbs in Kosovo in internal politics.
The first step that Vetevendosje will take in this matter will be relations with Albania, whose primary goal is "United Albania", even as the reason for entering the political scene. The Albanian elections, to be held next month (April 25, 2021), have a significant impact on the determination of this policy. Albin Kurti, who is a bit distanced with the PS (Socialist Party of Albanian) leader Edi Rama, who is currently in power in Albania, hopes the opposition will win. Noting that not the PS but the LSI (Lëvizja Socialiste për Integrim: Socialist Movement for Integration) might be regarded as the party representing the "left" in Albania and also noting the emphasis on “integration” in LSI's name, Vetevendosje would prefer to see LSI in power. LSI has a similar political program to Vetevendosye and received 8.4% of the votes in the first elections in 2008, when it entered the parliament, it got 14.3% in the most recent 2017 elections, but opinion polls predict that its votes will decrease in next month’s election. Even if Edi Rama wins the elections, regardless of who is in charge of Albania, the Kurti government will look to keep tight relations in Albania, regardless of who is in the government, for the sake of "unification".
Here we need to draw attention to the fact that although Albania is thought to be the address of "United Albania", historically the political center of the Albanian national movement has always been Kosovo, and this phenomenon is still true today. Therefore, it will not be surprising that Kosovo's politics also affect, or even direct, politics in Albania. But Kurti will follow a policy that will not allow for political polarization in Albania. Although it has an LSI government in his heart, he will not hesitate to establish a pragmatic relationship with the PS.
There is an expectation that the real problem will arise in Macedonia, and this expectation has reasons that cannot be ignored. About a quarter of Macedonia’s 2 million population is Albanian. Of course the "United Albania" project also includes Albanians, who make up the majority of the population in the west of Macedonia. The newly foemed Vetevendosye government has not yet made shocking statements about Albanians in Macedonia, but Kurti has already called for the Macedonian Albanians in the diaspora to do their best to be counted in the census to be held in Macedonia between April 1-21 in 20 years. Despite this conjuncture, Kurti will avoid any action that would come into conflict with the moderate Zaev government in Macedonia. Sacrificing Zaev to the hawks in Macedonia is a strategy Kurti would definitely not prefer in Macedonia.
Erdoğan Regime was one of the first to celebrate Kurti's election victory. The government of Turkey's policy on Kosovo is clear: Unconditional support in every situation even in the situations that the Turkish schools were closed justified by insufficient number of students or when street signs including Turkish translation were removed or Turkish radio channels were not given new frequence lines. Turkey has been one of the first to recognize Kosova’s independence in 2008 and this was very important for Kosovo in order to gain very precious support of Islamic countries through support of Turkey, who had then considerable power in Middle East politics. Albin Kurti and Vetevendosje also still cares about Turkey's presence in the Balkans. He said that the decion of Kosovo to open the embassy of the Zionist entity in Jerusalem will be re-evaluated following reaction of Erdoğan to this decision. Kosovo Turkish Democratic Party (KTDP) in the cabinet have given the Ministry of Regional Development which will provide a positive contribution to relations with Turkey.
Much has changed since 2008. Turkey have lost much of her international diplomatic power sacrificed to Erdoğan’s personal deeds. The arrest of 6 Turks in Kosovo in 2018 and the kidnapping of them by the MIT caused great reaction Kosovo.
The Kurti government, which has shaped its domestic political moves with a program to fight against corruption and poverty and to ensure developmental and social justice, and which is clear that it will follow a political line that avoids polarization and conflict in the region, will shape its foreign policy on a global scale in a very pragmatic and rational framework. In this context, if new Kosovo government will have to make a chose between Zionist entity and Turkey, an unexpected decion would not be gathered as a suprise. It would not be a surprise if Kosovo will choose Zionist entity, who would like to cooperate with a realiable and stable ally with a Muslim majority in the Balkans, like they did with Azerbaijan, sacrificing support of Turkey who is already stuck in foriegn politics.
In our next article, we will look at what kind of relations Kosovo can develop with international actors, especially the USA, within the framework of a pragmatic foreign policy in the new process.