A BIRN investigation has found that, in 2019, Kosovo’s Ministry of European Integration paid a French PR firm to promote territorial exchange as a legitimate solution in the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci first raised the possibility of territorial exchange as a solution to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in 2018. Then-Prime Minister of the PANA coalition Ramush Haradinaj strongly opposed the notion stating “that’s why tragedies happen.”
However, a PDK-run Ministry in Haradinaj’s own government seems to have been funding a lobbying campaign to make the idea of a land swap between Kosovo and Serbia a palatable option in the EU political scene.
Majorelle PR & Events received €168,000 of taxpayer money via a contract signed and negotiated by PDK’s Minister of Integration, Dhurata Hoxha, in the PANA coalition government. Hoxha is a former Thaci advisor, whereas PDK was co-founded by Thaci and led by him until he became President in 2016.
A report sent by the firm to Kosovo’s Ambassador to France laments that the issue of territorial changes is seen as “taboo” in the French political arena, but notes that US support for a change in borders has led the EU to seeing “Kosovo’s position, showing how territorial modification could […] be a way to the resumption of dialogue” more favorably.
Hoxha told BIRN that the firm had been paid to lobby for visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens, and said she was not aware of the “worrying” claim that Majorelle was promoting territorial exchange. She added that she never looked at the reports sent by Majorelle, and claimed not to know who the contract manager was.
However, the documents discovered by BIRN seem to indicate that Hoxha was particularly invested in signing a contract with Majorelle, specifically. The contract was negotiated directly with the firm, sidestepping the usual public procurement procedures stipulated by the law. When the General Secretary of the Ministry Demush Shasha pointed as much out to Hoxha, she insisted that “the circumstances are extraordinary.”
Sensing the contract was a suspicious one, and unwilling to put his signature on it, Shasha resigned. His replacement, Kushtrim Cukaj, related to a former PDK Justice Minister and to a reported business partner of PDK leader Kadri Veseli, was dismissed by a disciplinary commission in May 2020 for, among other things, his lack of oversight concerning contracts signed by Hoxha’s ministry.
PDK leader Kadri Veseli, former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, and Majorelle PR & Events have not responded to BIRN’s requests for comments.