March 19, 2020 / 8:56 PM / 10 days ago

Kosovars bang pots from balconies to protest political crisis

PRISTINA (Reuters) - People across Kosovo went to their balconies banging pots in a protest to urge ruling parties to deal with coronavirus and end a political crisis which may bring down the government next week.

A coalition partner in the Kosovo government said on Wednesday it will file a motion for a no-confidence vote in the government following the sacking of the interior minister over a dispute whether to declare a state of emergency to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Isa Mustafa, the leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), said the sacking was a culmination of differences between the coalition partners on whether a tariff of 100% on goods produced in Serbia should be abolished.

“They are looking after their business. It is not time for revenge they have to look after people,” said Gazmend Vokshi, 60, an architect.

“If they continue like this they (politicians) will not have time to look after us and there will be a lot of victims,” said Naim Miftari, 34.

Kosovo has registered 20 people with the virus since last Friday when the first case was reported.

It has already closed all schools, borders, flights, bars and restaurants. Only supermarkets and pharmacies remain open.

Most of the people with coronavirus came from Italy or are related to someone who returned from Italy.

Mustafa’s LDK and Vetevendosje, the party of Prime Minister Albin Kurti, formed the government less than two months ago.

With 29 members in the 120-seat Parliament, Kurti’s Cabinet is unlikely to survive the vote.

Kosovo introduced the tariff in November 2018, saying it would be abolished once Belgrade recognized Kosovo. The move halted the dialogue on normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina and angered the European Union and the United States, which backed Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

Last week, the United States halted some $50 million in aid to Kosovo over its refusal to lift the tariffs.

Serbia, which lost control over Kosovo after the NATO bombing in 1999, refuses to recognize the independence of its former province, and considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory despite the 2008 declaration of independence.

But in order to progress on its path toward the European Union accession process, Serbia has to normalize ties with Pristina and eventually recognize Kosovo, allowing it to become a member of the United Nations.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; editing by Grant McCool

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