Protests staged for workers’ rights, incidents against journalists
Rallies staged by ex-fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)
Hundreds of Kosovo war veterans protested twice in front of the Assembly of Kosovo calling for a pension increase from 170 EUR to 250 EUR per month, in line with the minimum wage as foreseen by the new Draft Law on Minimum Wage. The protest came after the approval of the bill in the first reading by the ruling coalition, which has raised questions on whether the KLA veterans’ pensions should also be included in the proposed minimum salary increase. The protest escalated after war veterans attempted to push into the parliament. Police used pepper spray to disperse them. A couple of protesters and two police officers were injured. Former fighters of the KLA oppose the draft legislation stating that it is discriminatory towards them, while the government disputes the veterans’ list as suspiciously large and demanded its review initially.
Action held after no progress on granting visa liberalisation for Kosovar citizens
A group of citizens marched in the squares of Prishtina after no progress was made in granting visa-free access to the EU for Kosovar citizens at the EU’s Summit in Paris. Kosovo is the only country in the Western Balkans that still does not enjoy visa liberalisation, despite meeting all the criteria to have visa-free access to the Union. In a separate action, activists of the Movement for Democracy improvised a prison in front of the European Union Office in Prishtina, symbolising the isolation of Kosovo due to the non-liberalisation of visas. Under the slogan “Killed and massacred by Serbia, isolated by Europe” and “What fault do we have that we are isolated? Aren’t we people like you?”, they also promised to bring the installation before the EU headquarters in Brussels if they manage to get visas.
Protest on the withdrawal of pension funds
Workers of the Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEC) protested in front of the Government’s building demanding permission for an additional withdrawal from Kosovo’s Retirement Savings Fund (Trust). The protest came on the day when the Assembly of Kosovo was expected to consider the draft law that enables citizens an additional withdrawal from Trust savings. Furthermore, a petition with over 21,000 signatures was sent to the Assembly of Kosovo by the citizens' group "In favor of withdrawing 30% of Trust savings". The demands come after a wave of inflation that hit the country. While the opposition parties support the creation of the legal framework for an additional withdrawal from the retirement fund, the government does not back up this demand.
Protests organised by Kosovo Serbs
Several Kosovo Serbs protested in North Mitrovica against the Kosovo – Serbia deal on the road map for implementing earlier energy agreements reached in the framework of the EU-facilitated dialogue for the normalistion of relations between both countries. A small number of Serbs joined the protest, called by the civic initiative “Survival of the Serbs”, under the slogan “We do not agree”. They complained about the lack of information regarding the deal, stating that it was non-transparent, and raised doubts about the quality of service that the “Elektrosever” company would offer. For over 20 years after the war, Kosovo Serbs living in four municipalities with Serb majority in the north of Kosovo have not paid for their electricity. Instead, since 2017 their electricity bills have been paid by the Government of Kosovo, costing the latter more than 12 million EUR per year.
Serbs from Kosovo and Serbia gathered in Gazimestan, marking the anniversary of Vidovdani – a celebration in memory of the Battle of Kosovo that Serbian history recognises as its spiritual victory despite the great loss of Balkan forces and the killing of the Serbian Prince Lazar by the Ottomans. The anniversary has regularly escalated in chauvinist chants by Serbs, while this year a couple of participants were also seen holding Russian flags. The Kosovo police turned back several participants wearing provocative shirts with ultra-nationalist inscriptions that promote ethnic hatred and violence. A person was arrested forincitement of discord and intolerance.
Pride Parade for the LGBTQI+ community’s rights
Hundreds of activists, joined by MPs and ambassadors, marked the sixth edition of the Pride Parade for LGBTQI+ rights. With the motto ‘‘We are in the state, we are in the family”, they demanded equal treatment for the LGBTQI+ community, while the slogan reflected the denial of LGBTQI+ presence both in the state and in the family.
Protest organised by workers
- As previously reported, nurses employed as support staff in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic protested again, demanding an extension to their employment contracts that expired in June 2022. Dozens of nurses gathered in “Skënderbeu” square in Prishtina warning they would leave Kosovo if the status of their contracts was not changed.
- Workers of the "Kosova Thëngjill” company protested in front of the Government’s building demanding that all the company’s fired employees return to work, as well as the return of the company’s operations under the Kosovo Energy Corporation.
- Former employees of the public enterprise "Rilindja"gathered in front of the Rilindja’s Palace, demanding the allocation of the 20 percent of shares belonging to the workers from the sale of the company. They also called on the Assembly of Kosovo to accelerate the amendment of the Law on Pensions that would recognise their working experience and enable them to enjoy full pensions.
Action to demand justice for murdered woman
Under the slogan "We do not forget", the Feminist Thought and Action held an action in front of the Basic Court of Ferizaj demanding justice for the murder of Marigona Osmani, killed by her partner last year. In the meantime, the first hearing against two accused in the case was held inside the Court.
Local issues raised through protests
- Locals of the Gllogovicë settlement protested in front of the Municipality of Prishtina, demanding the provision of public transport for the region. Residents of the surrounding villages also joined the protest, complaining that many students have not continued their secondary education due to the lack of public transport. Following this, the director of Public Services of the Municipality of Prishtina, said that they will provide urban transport lines for the settlement.
- Dozens of businessmen and traders in Podujeva protested against the termination of the customs terminal in Merdar. Under the slogan "Who covers our expenses?", the protesters complained that the terminal's closure will cause them additional costs since for each customs clearance they will have to use terminals of municipalities which are further away. During the protest, police prevented protesters from marching to the border point in Merdar.
Actions held by the Social Democratic Party (SDP)
Activists of the SDP held an action in front of the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council against the approval of the new Law on the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council which, according to SDP activists, undermines the independence of this institution and brings it under the Prime Minister’s political control.
In a separate action, activists of the SDP protested against the deal on the road map for implementing earlier energy agreements between Kosovo and Serbia, calling it an agreement grounded on ethnic lines. In front of the government’s building they brought dozens of files with petitions launched by the Self-Determination Movement (the current ruling party) which opposed the agreement when they were in opposition.
Other protests in the reporting period
- Student senators of the University of Prishtina's parliament protested in front of the Rectorate, opposing the expected confirmation of the newly-elected senators, despite their mandate formally starting on 1st October 2022.
- Fans of the Football Club “Drenica” gathered to prevent Serbian students, part of a summer school organised in Kosovo, from visiting the memorial complex of the Kosovo Liberation Army Commander, Adem Jashari. No incidents were reported.
During the reporting period, the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) denounced the physical attacks, cyber-attacks, obstructions and insulting language against journalists.
- A team of RTK journalists was physically attacked by a vendor in the Green Market of Prishtina while they were filming a story on street vendors. The AJK condemned the attack and called on the justice bodies "to treat the case as a priority”.
- A TV Syri journalist was not allowed to enter the Blood Transfusion Department at the Regional Hospital in Gjakova by the head of the department. This comes after the journalist previously reported on his arrest.
- A RTK2 journalist was obstructed by the Mayor of Shtërpce, who initially refused to answer the journalist's questions on a Kosovo Police action in the municipality and later used insulting language towards the journalist, accusing him of spreading “lies and untruths”.
- The AJK and the Press Council of Kosovo condemned the unacceptable speech of the Self-Determination Movement’s MP, Fitore Pacolli, in the Assembly of Kosovo, which called for government regulation of the media, in particular the online portals. Referring to a report of the European Parliament on Kosovo, Pacolli stated in the parliament that recent years have seen large private investments in the Kosovar media outlets and online portals which have later been used for business purposes and political blackmail. She called on the Assembly of Kosovo and the Government to undertake measures to identify the owners of these media outlets and their way of functioning.
- The AJK denounced a series of cyber-attacks against online portal “Nacionale”, and called on the Kosovo Police and the Cybercrime Unit to investigate the case as a priority and bring the perpetrators to justice.