As Kosovars cast their ballot in a legislative election on Sunday, FRANCE 24 reports on how a debate to transform the country’s tiny security force into a full-standing army has split the nation.
All eyes were on the turnout from the Serb minority in the north, who voted for the first time since Kosovo broke away from Serbia six years ago.
Kosovo Serbs spoke with one voice against the establishment of a full-standing army.
Members of this community, who lost a bitter interethnic war in 1999 against the nation’s Albananian population, told FRANCE 24 that a Kosovo army would be a direct threat to their security.
“We think that the only armed force in Kosovo is NATO, and this shall not change. I must add that in the Balkans, there have been many fights and acts of war (…) we think it is very dangerous to create a military force of any kind,” said Vladeta Kostic, a member of Serbian parliament from Kosovo
'Embryo of a national army'
Kosovo already has a small civilian security force established to conduct crisis response and intervene in the case of natural disasters. Kosovar leaders who support the establishment of a full-standing army say that this 2,500-strong force, equipped with rifles and lightweight armoured vehicles, is already the embryo of a national army..
“Kosovo has an army. It's in a developmental stage. It is evolving. (…) We are progressively moving towards an armed force, and our ambition is to become a member of NATO,” Ramush Haradinaj, a senior candidate and former guerilla leader, told FRANCE24
Sunday's general election comes amid growing discord in the 120-seat parliament, where Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) had just 32 MPs and had been ruling with support from junior coalition parties and a minority Albanian party.
Observers expect a tight race between Thaci's centre-left PDK and the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) led by former Pristina mayor Isa Mustafa.
In any case, observers say it is also unlikely that parliament would overcome objections to create a new military force in the Balkans.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-06-08