December 26, 2019 / 4:48 PM / a month ago

Kosovo parliament convenes as coalition deal remains elusive

A general view of Kosovo's newly elected members of parliament as parliament convenes for the first time since the October snap election, in Pristina, Kosovo, December 26, 2019. REUTERS/Laura Hasani

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo’s new parliament convened on Thursday for the first time since the Balkan country held a snap election in October although the two biggest parties are still struggling to reach a deal on forming a new government.

One of the biggest challenges for any government will be to negotiate a deal with neighbouring Serbia, which has steadfastly refused to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence.The leftist Vetevendosje party won 29 seats in the 120-seat legislature and the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) 28 in an Oct. 6 national election.

Some smaller parties have said they would support a Vetevendosje/LDK government to provide it with a majority but the LDK’s demand to appoint a new President when Hashim Thaci’s term ends in 2021 has proved a sticking point in negotiations between the two groups.

Vetevendosje’s Glauk Konjufca was elected as speaker of the parliament on Thursday, a move that could further complicate talks as in earlier discussions a member of the LDK had been expected to fill the role.

A deal with Serbia would bring Kosovo a step closer to securing a seat at the United Nations and beginning European Union accession talks but both Vetevendosje and the LDK have said they are unwilling to compromise on anything that would undermine Kosovo’s independence or its sovereignty.

The election, the country’s fourth since declaring independence in 2008, was called after Ramush Haradinaj resigned as prime minister after being summoned for questioning by an EU-funded war crimes court that sits in The Hague.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes drove out Serbian forces accused of expelling and killing ethnic Albanian civilians in a two-year counter-insurgency.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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