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; when Serb forces withdrew from Kosovo after 10 June 1999, he was one of the 2,000 Kosovo Albanian prisoners transferred to Serbia. Initially 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. By launching demonstrations as the final status negotiations process began, Vetevendosje became more visible. 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 point, the crowd attempted to reach the government building and the Parliament. 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 these events Kosovo’s 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. By that time, however, the Romanian special police officers in question had been sent back to Romania.
This incident triggered great nervousness among UNMIK officials and Kosovo’s political elite, which feared that such protests would jeopardise the ongoing final status negotiations. To silence Vetevendosje, police raided headquarters and arrested Albin Kurti. Three months later Kurti was released from prison, though he 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 years 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 about how bad things could get, not how the situation might improve. […] UNMIK has no positive arguments for its presence, but merely negative arguments as to 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-track career, no responsibility, no one has to account for their decisions; and frankly, most of them are only mediocre in their own countries."
Albin Kurti has repeatedly called for public protests against UNMIK:
"I hope there will be an uprising by the people of Kosovo, but a peaceful and non-violent one, because if we are going to have a violent uprising UNMIK and KFOR and the police know really well what to do; they are violent, so they are going to smash it, blame the citizens and continue their rule. But it is non-violent demonstrations and a peaceful uprising that they can not really handle."
Albin 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!"