March 18, 2020 / 1:25 PM / 21 days ago

Kosovo coalition partner to file no-confidence vote in government

PRISTINA (Reuters) - A coalition partner in the Kosovo government 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 of the interior minister was a culmination of differences between the coalition partners on whether a tariff of 100% on goods produced in Serbia should be abolished.

Kosovo introduced the tariff in November 2018, saying it would be abolished once Belgrade recognised Kosovo. The move halted the dialogue on normalising 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.

“We will file a motion for a no-confidence vote in the Parliament,” Mustafa told journalists after a party meeting. “Our main disagreement is the worsening relations with our partner, the U.S. We don’t see any perspective for the future of this country without the presence and support of the United States.”

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

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

Serbia, which lost control over Kosovo after the NATO bombing in 1999, refuses to recognise 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 towards the European Union accession process, Serbia has to normalise ties with Pristina and eventually recognise Kosovo, allowing it to become a member of the United Nations.

Belgrade refuses to continue the EU-sponsored dialogue with Pristina unless tariffs are removed. Together with its traditional ally Russia it has been blocking Kosovo’s membership in international organisations including the United Nations.

The United States and the EU have pressured Kosovo to lift the tariffs and resume the dialogue with Pristina. U.S. officials have said Washington may take additional measures against Kosovo such as pulling out some 650 U.S. peacekeepers if Pristina refuses to lift the tariffs.

Kurti said Kosovo would remove the tariffs partially and with some conditions, but Washington said that was not enough.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; editing by Gareth Jones and Leslie Adler

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