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Albin Kurti
Albin Kurti

Albin Kurti is leader of the Vetevendosje (self-determination) movement. During the 1990s he was a student activist involved in organising demonstrations against the Milosevic regime. He worked with Adem Demaci, the spokesperson of the Kosovo Liberation Army. During the NATO bombardment he was arrested and when Serb forces withdrew from Kosovo after 10 June 1999 he was one of 2,000 Kosovo Albanian prisoners who were transferred to Serbia. First sentenced to 15 years in jail he was later pardoned and released in December 2001.

Upon his return Kurti directed his anger at UNMIK, which he saw as a neo-colonial structure with unlimited powers. Organising demonstrations, Vetevendosja became more visible as the final status negotiations process began. On 10 February 2007 "Vetevendosje" organized a big rally to protest against plans for "supervised independence". 3,000 demonstrators, mostly young people, took to the street. At one moment, the crowd attempted to get to the government building and the Parliament where 500 policemen and international guards confronted them. The police fired teargas and shot rubber-bullets into the crowd. 70 people were injured, four seriously wounded and two died in hospital the next day.

Following this the Kosovo Minister of Interior Fatmir Rexhepi resigned, as did the head of the international UNMIK Police, Stephen Curtis. A special UN investigation found evidence of excessive use of force and noted the unauthorised use of rubber bullets. In the meantime, however, the Romanian special police officers suspected to be responsible had been sent back to Romania.

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"Self-determination!", © 2008 pre tv. All rights reserved..

This incident triggered great nervousness among UNMIK as well as the Kosovo political elite, which feared that such protests would jeopardise the ongoing status negotiations. To silence Vetevendosja and Albin Kurti, police raided Vetevendosje's headquarters and arrested him. Three months later, Kurti was released from prison but remained under house arrest until February 2008.

Albin remains a strong critic of the international mission:

"All local institutions are totally subordinated to UNMIK. However, without democracy, without freedom things cannot improve. In all the nine year that they have been in Kosovo these bureaucrats - both international and national - only thought of losing what they have, not of what they might gain. They worry how bad things could be, not how the situation might improve. … UNMIK has no positive arguments for its presence, but merely negative arguments what would happen in its absence.

And then you see these bureaucrats, on lunch break from the UN headquarters, with their laptops and mobile phones, as in the film "Matrix". Why are they all in Kosovo? Double income, a fast career, no responsibility, no one has to account for his decisions and, frankly, most of them are only mediocre in their own countries."

Vetëvendosje! Demonstration

Albin Kurti has repeatedly called for public protests against UNMIK:

"I hope there will be an uprising of people of Kosovo, but a peaceful and non-violent one, because if we are going to have a kind of violent uprising then UNMIK and KFOR and police they know really well what to do, because they are violent, so they are going to smash and blame the citizens and continue their rule. But it is peaceful non-violent demonstrations and uprising that they can not really handle."

He is also critical of the EU mission. In Pristina traffic lights bear stickers of Vetevendosja reading 'No to EUMIK':

"we don't want the European Union with all its bureaucracy in Kosovo, but Kosovo in the European Union … Kosovo remains a powder keg that maladministration, unemployment and poverty has nurtured. There is big disappointment with domestic and international politicians. It needs only a spark!"

May 2008

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