Kosovo is crying out for change!Vjosa Osmani represents a fresh, unexpected face of the youngest state in Europe. The acting President's visit to Bern on Wednesday raises hopes for a new chapter in Kosovar-Swiss relations.
The acting President of Kosovo paid a courtesy visit to Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis on Wednesday. She was previously a guest at the Parliament.
With a well-groomed English with an American intonation, politically sharp, pointed statements instead of lengthy phrases, well educated, young, mother of twins: Vjosa Osmani does not correspond to the stereotype of the Balkan politician at all. "You are right, it is a stereotype and not reality", the incumbent President of Kosovo opens the conversation with the NZZ: "I represent the image of the vast majority of the Kosovar population - especially the young population."
Vjosa Osmani visited the federal councillors in Bern on Wednesday. She is the President of the Kosovar Parliament and currently also the acting President, because the previous incumbent Hashim Thaci is in custody in The Hague.
Osmani is a lawyer and did her PhD in the United States. Together with Albin Kurti, the leader of the Vetëvendosje (self-determination) movement, she was one of the winners of the parliamentary elections last February . The Kosovar population has achieved a change without any outside intervention: away from the dominant war commanders and their structures towards something new.
Benevolence of Switzerland
The expectations of the country's young population are enormous, as are the challenges. "For the first time the people's call was heard and it is not just a call, it is a cry for change," said Osmani, commenting on the election success. "Now we have to deliver: jobs and justice."
Together with Albin Kurti, she has promised jobs and the rule of law in the election campaign. Today a quarter of the Kosovar population are unemployed. There is deep trust in the state institutions. The previous ruling class is seen as corrupt, in some cases even connected with organized crime.
The people in Kosovo are used to great promises from politicians, Osmani knows that: "The people in Kosovo are very patient, they give you a chance, but we must not disappoint them!" Of course, not all problems could be solved overnight, but there is now a new perspective for Kosovo.
She wants to set a good example and, above all, introduce the spirit of meritocracy: those who achieve something move forward and have something to say. That has never happened in Kosovo, says Osmani in an interview.
In front of the media in Bern, the guest from Kosovo received a lot of goodwill from the President of the National Council, Andreas Aebi (svp.). The elections heralded a new political era in Kosovo. The hopes of the Kosovar diaspora in Switzerland that the rule of law will improve and that corruption and organized crime will be fought are great: "I can only agree with this hope," said Aebi. This would also make Kosovo more attractive for investors.
Osmani hopes that Switzerland will work to ensure that the Kosovar population does not require visas. To this day, Kosovars cannot enter the Schengen area without a visa. The low point in Swiss-Kosovar relations was the termination of the social security agreement. No more pensions were paid to Kosovo from Switzerland between 2010 and 2019. The trade unions and the SP made a name for themselves as advocates of the Kosovars.
"Problems are not ideological in nature"
The Social Democrats and especially their Co-President Cédric Wermuth have campaigned heavily for Albin Kurti and his party in the past. The movement is extremely popular among young Swiss with a Kosovar background. Many partisans of Kurtis are also members of the SP.
Kurti and Osmani are both intellectuals but come from different backgrounds. Albin Kurti began his political life as an activist against the Serbian dominance in Kosovo during the 1990s and had to go to prison for it.
He later fought for self-determination and criticized the international community for their “colonial behaviour” in dealing with Kosovo. Osmani, on the other hand, comes from the more conservative party of Ibrahim Rugova, the representative of non-violent resistance against Serbia. In the elections, she ran her own list, but linked in a coalition to Kurti. He is to become prime minister, Osmani president.
Is it a correction of Kurti's left wing politics? Of course, they belong to two different political ideologies, said Osmani. But Kurti had moved to the middle, he was a social democrat. "We have succeeded in developing a joint program that contains centre-left as well as centre-right positions."
Kosovo's problems are not ideological. «If we want to fight the corrupt system, then no ideology must divide us. That will also hold us together, ”Osmani is convinced.
For stability and real prospects, Kosovo needs a peace treaty with Serbia. But both sides insist on maximalist demands. Switzerland shares responsibility for contributing to a solution.
As a neutral country, it went beyond and immediately recognized Kosovo as a state after the declaration of independence in 2008. Switzerland is also personally connected to Kosovo through the large diaspora. Even in times of the pandemic, there is in fact an airlift with several flights per day between Pristina and the three Swiss national airports.
Priority for running water and electricity
In recent years, a land swap has been proposed to resolve the conflict: the Serbian-majority north of Kosovo should go to Serbia, and an Albanian-majority area in the south of Serbia to Kosovo.
Behind the scenes, Switzerland has worked hard against border changes. Now, consequently, Switzerland would also have to campaign against a union between Kosovo and Albania, with which Albin Kurti is still flirting to this day.
At the moment, the idea is unlikely to have a lot of chances and will primarily be used as an intervention in negotiations with Serbia.
Acting President Osmani made it clear to the NZZ that the coalition agreement stipulated that there would be no border shifts - and no constitutional amendments either. This would be necessary for a Kosovar-Albanian merger project.
“We agree on the priorities: There are still places in Kosovo without running water or electricity. That is the focus."
For Belgrade it is about recognizing the realities, says Osmani: "There is a lot to discuss at the negotiating table, but certainly not Kosovo's sovereignty." It is precisely because the acting president was received with open arms in Bern that Swiss diplomacy should promote a constructive dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade.