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Naming New PM Not A Priority During Pandemic, Kosovo's Kurti Tells RFE/RL

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti
Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti

Kosovo's outgoing Prime Minister Albin Kurti says he will not immediately respond to President Hashim Thaci's request to nominate a new candidate to form a government because he is busy fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

Kurti was toppled on March 25 and his Self-Determination (VV) party, the largest in parliament, was supposed to renominate him or find a replacement within 15 days.

The no-confidence vote was called by the VV's coalition partners, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), amid disagreements over the government's approach to the coronavirus crisis.

Kurti and the VV insist that no new coalition is possible during the crisis and that early elections must be held as soon as possible.

Thaci, Kurti's main rival, is calling for a government of national unity to tackle the crisis.

Thaci and Kurti have stepped up their attacks on each other since the coronavirus outbreak began, even challenging the measures proposed or put into place to suppress the spread of the disease.

"We will respond to the president at an appropriate time, but I cannot say that we will do so now. We will not leave the president without an answer, but the country can't be left without good governance," Kurti said in a telephone interview with RFE/RL from Pristina on April 9.

"The emergency was to fight this pandemic, not to overthrow the government, and pulling the strings to get a new government the way the president is doing, is even less urgent," Kurti said.

He added that even if Kosovo gets a new government, "there could be no priority other than fighting the pandemic."

Kosovar authorities have reported 224 cases so far, including six deaths.

Kurti said that once his outgoing government has brought the outbreak under control, Kosovo must hold early parliamentary elections.

Disagreements Over Curfews

However, all the political parties, except Kurti's VV, support the creation of a new government rather than organizing snap polls.

Kosovo's Constitutional Court on March 31 ruled that curfews ordered by Kurti to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country violated the constitution.

The court, acting on a motion filed by Thaci, ordered the government to repeal the measures within two weeks. According to the court's ruling, the measures will become invalid as of April 13. Thaci also urged citizens not to respect Kurti's curfews, saying such measures can only be declared under a state of emergency.

Asked if he will declare a state of emergency after April 13, Kurti said, "there is no need to declare a state of emergency because the state system has not collapsed, and the institutions are carrying out the tasks they were given by the government."

"There is no system failure so that we need to declare a state of emergency," Kurti said.

After April 13, each municipality will decide by itself on the movement limitations, Kurti said.

Pristina recently lifted the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods and services imposed in November 2018 in response to Belgrade's continued lobbying for countries to reverse their recognition of Kosovo, a former province of Serbia’s. But Kurti's government replaced the tariffs with reciprocal measures.

The tariffs' imposition was initially supported by Kurti but has angered the United States and European Union. The United States has also opposed the reciprocal measures introduced by Kurti.

Asked about Kosovo's relationship with the United States, Kurti said, "I am convinced that the alliance and partnership between the Republic of Kosovo and the United States of America is inseparable and does not depend on the Kosovo governments or presidents."

"I believe that the United States needs a strong Kosovo, a Kosovo that protects its own interests and thus strengthens the alliance with the United States."

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