From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Much at Stake in Kosovo’s Early Elections Leader of Vetvendosje (Self-determination) opposition party, Albin Kurti (R), stands in front of the Kosovo Police officers during a protest in Pristina, Kosovo, 12 May 2011. Hundreds of protesters clashes with Kosovo Police to protest the visit of Serbian negotiator Borko Stefanovic. Stefanovic arrived in Pristina to discuss EU-mediated talks on improving relations between Serbia and Kosovo. EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ

Today, Kosovo is holding early elections as a result of the resignation of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj after he was summoned for questioning at the Kosovo Special Chambers, a special court charged with investigation crimes committed during the Kosovo Liberation War.

The elections are held at a moment when negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo appear to have ground to a halt, and the international community has largely lost the plot on Kosovo.

The highly criticized land-swap plan pushed by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, Kosovar President Hashim Thaçi, and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama proved to be a non-starter, met with strong opposition from Germany and international experts. Yet, the EU and US are blundering their way to the next diplomatic failure.

The EU is about to elect the Spanish Josep Borell as next High Representative, apparently without wondering how a diplomat from a country that still doesn’t recognize Kosovo is supposed to put the Kosovo–Serbia negotiations back on track.

Meanwhile, after the US State Department appointed Matthew Palmer as special representative for the Western Balkans, the White House suddenly nominated Trump ally Richard Grenell as special envoy. Contrary to Palmer, Grenell has zero experience in diplomacy, let alone the details of the Kosovo–Serbia negotiations. It seems unlikely that Palmer and Grenell will be able to come up with a unified strategy on Kosovo, let alone coordinate their efforts with Borell and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Grenell has consistently antagonized.

The elections are also marked by concern among some internationals about the rise of Vetëvendosja (VV), the party led by Albin Kurti. VV has been openly critical of EU and US meddling in Kosovo, which include the corruption-plagued EULEX mission, and are seen as threat to their chokehold on the country.

In the 2017 national elections, VV became the largest party but the rival PAN coalition was able to form a government led by Ramush Haradinaj. Despite a schism in the party in 2018, which saw 12 MPs break off, current polls put VV a stable second place after Isa Mustafa’s LDK, and the main question today will be whether they are able to actually exceed those expectations.