April 30, 2020 / 4:40 PM / a month ago

Kosovo president nominates PM candidate to try to solve political crisis

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo’s president on Thursday sought to solve a political crisis by asking a nominee of the second biggest party to form a new government, but the effort to set up a new administration is likely to be challenged in the country’s highest court.

FILE PHOTO: Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci attends an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

President Hashim Thaci said he was giving the task to Avdullah Hoti, who served as finance minister between 2014 and 2017 and deputy prime minister in the government of caretaker Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

Thaci’s move follows the dismissal of Kurti’s government after less than two months in office, following disagreements with its main partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the removal of trade tariffs on Serbian goods.

Hoti’s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) came second in parliamentary elections in October and formed an uneasy coalition with Kurti’s Vetevendosje party that was marred by disputes.

“No one can pretend that with non-democratic methods they can take, keep or occupy the power,” Thaci told a news conference outside his office.

Thaci’s comments were directed at Kurti, who wants to hold a snap parliamentary election once the pandemic is over.

Kurti has also said he will go to the constitutional court to challenge the formation of a new government if parliament holds a vote to elect one. Such a vote may happen on Saturday.

Kurti has accused Thaci of being one of the masterminds behind the dismissal of his government in order to pursue the partition of Kosovo.

According to Kurti, Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic have agreed to a land swap under a plan for Serbia to recognize Kosovo, a move that would help Belgrade join the European Union. Thaci has denied the accusations.

One of the main disagreements between Vetevendosje and LDK was whether a tariff of 100% on goods produced in Balkan rival Serbia should be abolished.

Kosovo introduced the tariff in November 2018, saying it would be abolished once Belgrade recognized Kosovo.

The move halted talks on normalizing ties between Belgrade and Pristina and angered the European Union and the United States, which backed Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 after the wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.

Kurti removed the tariffs but introduced reciprocity measures in a move criticized by Washington.

Hoti has said he will remove all tariff barriers with Serbia once the government is elected.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci, Editing by William Maclean

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