Lawmakers in Kosovo has approved a new government led by Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti by a razor-thin majority, ending months of political turmoil.
On June 3, Hoti, a 44-year-old economics professor and former finance minister, secured 61 votes in the 120-seat parliament. A total of 24 lawmakers voted against, with one abstention.
The leftist-nationalist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party did not participate in the vote.
As the vote took place, a small number of Vetevendosje supporters protested outside the parliament building, calling for early elections. Some of them tried to enter the parliament building but were turned away by police.
Hoti’s new fragile coalition government, formed between the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and two former opposition groups and parties representing ethnic minorities, will now attempt to move Kosovo forward on stalled normalization talks with neighboring Serbia while dealing with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I feel responsible to the deputies, to the citizens, and to the constitution for the tasks that await us," Hoti told the assembly.
Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008 in a move rejected by Belgrade. Both Serbia and Kosovo are under pressure from the United States and the EU to strike a comprehensive agreement.
Hoti said the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia on reaching a deal is essential to the interests of Kosovo and that the opposition should participate in the process.
"We should all be together in the dialogue because a successful end is in the interest of everyone in Kosovo," the new prime minister said.
Hoti stressed that any agreement with Belgrade will be based on reciprocal recognition, which he said will help ensure long-term stabilization of Kosovo and guarantee future membership in the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union.
He also spoke about Kosovo’s partnership with the United States and the European Union, saying the role of the two is inseparable in the dialogue with Serbia. He said the United States and the EU must be involved in both reaching an agreement and in implementing it.
Vetevendosje, the party of Hoti’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Albin Kurti, has accused Washington and Kosovar President Hashim Thaci of working in tandem to remove him from power in order to push through a deal with Serbia. Both Washington and Thaci deny the accusations.
The LDK initially partnered with Kurti after coming in second place behind Vetevendosje in elections in October, but the union fell apart after the LDK held a no-confidence motion against Kurti in March.
Kurti demanded new elections, but the Constitutional Court ruled that a new government could be formed without a vote, giving Hoti a path to the premiership.
Hoti said there had been an unprecedented campaign against the United States, adding that anti-Americanism had been what he called the greatest damage that has happened to Kosovo in 30 years of efforts for freedom and independence.
“Taking responsibility for running the government today, when our strategic relations with international partners have been disrupted by populist policies, is a great challenge and requires great commitment,” he said.
"We have no dilemmas with America or anyone else. For us, a partnership with the United States has no alternative," Hoti added.
But he said the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and economic reconstruction after the health crisis, however, are the main priorities of the new government. Other priorities include the implementation of reforms and the fight against organized crime and corruption.
Both the EU and the U.S. Embassy in Pristina welcomed the new government.
“The EU-facilitated dialogue is the only way to turn Kosovo’s European future into a reality for its citizens,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said in a statement.
The U.S. Embassy said it looked forward to working with Hoti’s government “to continue important work on peace, justice, and prosperity, including efforts to strengthen regional relations and combat COVID-19."