Protests staged against energy crisis, labour rights and gender-based violence
The following protests took place between 16th December 2021 and 10th February 2022:
Protests against the energy crisis
Protests and actions were staged as Kosovo has been facing an energy crisis, while the government declared a 60-day state of energy emergency.
A protest against electricity cuts was organised in front of Kosovo Energy Distribution Service (KEDS) and the government building, with citizens demanding electric supply 24 hours a day, state ownership of KEDS and the dismissal of the Minister of Economy, Artane Rizvanolli. Although KEDS had announced eight-hour electricity reductions and two-hour outages, there have been reports of electricity cuts lasting more than two hours in certain locations since the production of electricity by power plants did not meet the consumption demands. “Electricity is a fundamental right” and “Return KEDS to Kosovo” were some of the slogans shown and called by the protesters. Under the motto “Not a single cent more”, about 200 citizens joined another protest against increased electricity prices and demanded the nationalisation of KEDS. The Energy Regulatory Office’s proposal doubles the prices of electricity for those households consuming more than 600 kW a month.
Opposition against electricity price rises continued with the Social Democratic Party which called a protest in front of the government building demanding rejection of the Energy Regulatory Office’s proposal to increase the price of electricity. Thousands of citizens, activists, and politicians joined the protest, throwing candles and light bulbs towards the government building. At a certain point, there was a confrontation between SDP officials and police officers when the SDP’s Chairman, Dardan Molliqaj, slapped a police officer, which was later confirmed through video recordings. Due to the attack on the police officer, Molliqaj was arrested three days later by the Kosovo Police, while another SDP activist was arrested during the protest. Molliqaj has been released from detention, while the case will be handled by the Basic Court of Prishtina. Three police officers were injured in the confrontation as well. Activists of the SDP held dozens of other actions in front of KEDS offices, government building, and the Energy Regulatory Office, opposing the government’s decision to subsidise the import of extra electricity and accusing the executive of being subordinated to KEDS through defending its interests while acting against citizens. The government’s decision to subsidise the import of extra electricity comes after the import price of electricity increased by seven times.
Protests and strikes staged for labour rights
- Workers of the Kosovo Lottery protested in front of the government building demanding that their wages be paid and the approval of the Law on the Lottery of Kosovo. They have remained unemployed for more than 30 months since the Assembly of Kosovo passed a law that banned all forms of gambling in 2019.
- Workers of the Kosovo Energy Corporation protested in front of the Division of the Power Plant “Kosovo B” demanding 13-month pay and full health insurance.
- Dozens of farmers protested in front of the Municipality of Lipjan’s building claiming to have been discriminated against after not receiving compensation for the damages caused by floods almost a year ago. They claimed that the Municipality has bypassed 47 farmers who applied for compensation, while only 19 farmers whose names were not made public were awarded compensation by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Protests and marches against sexual harassment and gender-based violence
- Students of a high school in Malisheva protested with banners and shouted “shame on you” in reaction to suspected sexual harassment of a girl student by the deputy principal of the school. The latter was arrested by the Kosovo Police and is being held in custody.
- Activists of the non-governmental organisation “Intellectual Women of Drenica” marched and protested in Skënderaj after the murder of a 48-year-old woman. It is suspected that she was killed by her husband. Under the mottos “Murder is not a virtue of bravery but the lowest form of weakness”, “If you don’t know how to love, then do not take a life”, and chants of “Enough”, “We want safety”, and "Stop the murders of women”, they demanded justice for the victim and the dismissal of the Police Commander, recalling the fact that days before the incident the victim had reported domestic violence by her husband to the police. In a separate action, the Collective for Feminist Thought and Action covered walls of the police station and public spaces in Skënderaj with graffiti messages blaming institutions that maintain law and order for the tragic incident. “Police is an accomplice in the murder of women”, “Men kill women, the state remains silent”, and “Even the house if not a safe place for women”, were some of the graffiti messages drawn by the activists. The suspect was later arrested later and a pistol was confiscated from him.
Protest against COVID-19 measures
A group of Albanian citizens in the surrounding area near the border with Kosovo protested at the border crossings against the decision of the Government of Kosovo to tighten COVID-19 measures. Under the new measures, any foreign national with a booster dose can enter Kosovo without additional requirements, while fully vaccinated foreigners (with two vaccines) have to have a negative PCR test as well. Protesters who cross the border every day to come to work in Kosovo called upon the Government of Kosovo to reconsider their demands and lift the measures, claiming that they are neither eligible to get the booster, nor can afford to take a PCR test every 48 hours. According to guidelines, at least two to five months should pass after the completion of a primary COVID-19 vaccination series in order to be eligible for the booster dose. The Government introduced new COVID-19 measures as Kosovo was facing a drastic increase in positive cases of the Omicron variant.
Gatherings, protests, and marches with no incidents reported
- Members of the non-governmental organisation “Voice of Parents” and relatives of missing persons gathered in Prishtina demanding the approval of the Law on Missing Persons, the excavation of suspected mass graves and identification of about 300 mortal remains in the Prishtina morgue.
- A group of relatives and supporters of Nezir Mehmetaj, an alleged former Kosovo Liberation Army fighter, protested in front of the government building demanding that the executive urge Serbia to free him from detention. He was arrested two years ago at the border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia on suspicion of war crimes committed in 1999. His relatives claimed that Mehmetaj was not in Kosovo in 1999 and consequently was not involved in the war. Kosovo has called on the EU to use its authority to request Mehmetaj’s release. However, Serbia has not yet taken any steps in this regard.
- Dozens of Kosovo Serbs gathered in North Mitrovica protesting the decision of the Kosovo institutions not to allow the organisation of the Serbia referendum in the municipalities with a Serb majority in Kosovo. Serbia still considers Kosovo part of its territory and wanted to use the referendum as a symbolic means of exercising its sovereignty over Kosovo. The Government of Kosovo considered Serbia’s attempt to hold the referendum in the territory of Kosovo a provocation, contrary to the Constitution of Kosovo, a clear violation of its sovereignty, and not in line with practices of democratic states, which do not allow the organisation of other states' referendums in their territories. The day before the referendum, the Assembly of Kosovo adopted a resolution calling on institutions that maintain law not to allow the organisation of the referendum in the territory of Kosovo.
- Activists of NGOs in Prizren marched with bicycles around the town, marking World Cancer Day and calling for awareness regarding the disease.
- Employees of a company in Peja protested to demand the dismissal of the company’s board over alleged financial misuse.
Lawsuit against the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning over environmental rights
A lawsuit was filed by the Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS) and non-governmental organisation “Gjethi” against the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning over permits issued by the latter for the construction of hydropower plants in Kaçanik. According to GLPS and Gjethi, the permits have been issued without any prior public debate or adequate public information. Furthermore, they argued that the hydropower plants would cause the degradation of nature surrounding rivers and would deny the right of inhabitants to drinking water and irrigation of their lands.
Threats and obstruction against journalists were marked during the reporting period.
- Vehbi Kajtazi, journalist and founder of Paparaci.com, received over a hundred online threats on his life after his statements about the so-called “Kumanova Group” made on a TV show. The incident was also denounced by the Association of Journalists of Kosovo. The journalist opened a case with the Kosovo police, who have since arrested two suspects.
- The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) denounced the interrogation ofAlban Muhaxheri, a journalist and editor of the portal “Indeksonline”, at the police station in Kaçanik due to his posts on Facebook about a member of the Kosovo Police. The AJK condemned the police pressure against Muhaxheri, who was warned by police to remove his writings or otherwise be held in custody for 48 hours.
- A cameraman from news agency Ekonomia Online was arrested while reporting on a Kosovo Police action in the offices of an enterprise in Suhareka. According to the police, the cameraman was arrested after obstructing a police officer from conducting his official duty. However, the cameraman has claimed that he was arrested only because he had insisted on reporting, while the police ordered the media to stop recording. Two police officers have been suspended and disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against five others regarding the case. The cameraman was released from detention two hours later.
#Kosovo 🇽🇰: We condemn First Gentleman Prindon Sadriu's comments towards the press corps labelling them " a joint criminal enterprise" as deeply inappropriate. Freedom of expression is a fundamental component of any democracy https://t.co/tsgpzkrDO7 via @SafeJournalists— IFJ (@IFJGlobal) February 10, 2022
- The Association of Journalists of Kosovo denounced the denigrating language used by the First Gentleman towards certain journalists, labeling them “a joint criminal enterprise”. The AJK has considered this kind of language unacceptable and as direct pressure on journalists, recalling the fact that the President’s husband is also a high-ranking diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His comments were denounced by the International Federation of Journalists as well. On the other hand, the First Gentleman has claimed that his reactions came after attempts to tarnish the image of the President which have resulted in threats to her life and security for her family. An article published by an online media outlet targeting the President, Vjosa Osmani, triggered reactions from political actors and civil society. Between the lines of the article a quotation of the editor’s comment “You can remove it unless you want to hit Vjosa” was published. The article was published mistakenly with the comment in it which was copied by other online media outlets, causing a scandal and sparking strong condemnation.
Civic Space Developments