Viola von Cramon, the European Parliament’s Rapporteur for Kosovo, was shocked that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti voted in Tirana in the Albanian parliamentary elections. “I can’t understand what this is about… Unacceptable, at least for me,” a German member of the European Parliament, and not just any member, but one who should know Kosovo better than all other colleagues, announced on Twitter. Still, she was genuinely stunned by Kurti’s move, no doubt expecting something completely different from him.
And she expected the picture to be idyllic, just as they had projected in distant European capitals in connection with Kurti’s coming to power. They expected a Social Democrat, a European, an anti-corruption fighter and the first leader in Pristina who has no war past. That’s how they presented him to themselves. And they got a populist, an anti-systemic leader and a passionate nationalist who would like to renew the projects of national unification from the 19th century. Viola von Cramon has great enthusiasm for Kosovo, she understands her duty of a Rapporteur as a lobbying job for Kosovo (in her own words), but she is obviously not prepared for that job at all, because she allowed herself to be surprised that Albin Kurti, as Prime Minister, votes in another country, for the parliament of that other country.
Albin Kurti not only voted in the Albanian elections, but his Self-Determination movement highlighted three candidates for members of parliament in Tirana. In that way, he went a step further than the “ordinary” Albanian who has the citizenship of the Republic of Albania, and therefore has the right to vote in the elections there. The fact that he participated in Sunday’s elections in Albania with three candidates of his Kosovo Self-Determination movement, clearly shows that Albin Kurti understands Kosovo and Albania as one political space, not only ethnic.
Unfortunately, Kurti’s cross-border election activity is not unique in the Balkans, although it is the most ambitious and open. Other political leaders in the region also use the citizenship of other countries to exercise their right to vote outside the borders of the countries in which they hold high positions. Milorad Dodik, for example, in the capacity of one third of the head of state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, voted in the parliamentary elections in Serbia last June. He voted then at the Serbian Consulate General in Banja Luka, and that was the third time he used his right to vote in the Serbian elections. He does not see anything bad or strange in that, he says that he only uses the right that derives from the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia, which he acquired. The leaders of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats have been voting across the state border for a long time, so their leader Dragan Čović voted in both the presidential and parliamentary elections in Croatia last year.
Dual citizenship, as a widespread democratic heritage in Europe, should by no means be denied to politicians, because in that way they would be discriminated against in relation to other citizens for no reason. However, the abuse of that civil right cannot be tolerated, as some in the Balkans do, among whom Albin Kurti is only the latest and most drastic example. Their moves, as politicians from the “diaspora”, to vote, and even to run, in their home countries, can have no justification in having dual citizenship. This right of theirs must have less force than their political responsibility towards the state (territory) in which they fought for high positions, in which they represent a large number of people who voted for them.
Their favoring of the ethnic in relation to the political speaks enough about the main goal of their policies, and that is neither social democracy, nor the fight against corruption, nor economic development, but – a national matter. The idea of the new government in Podgorica to ease the conditions for obtaining Montenegrin citizenship is on the same line, because this law seeks to change the “blood count” of the electorate, by introducing a large number of current citizens of Serbia, of Montenegrin origin, into citizenship and Montenegrin voting lists.
The mother countries are not to blame for the fact that their compatriots from the neighborhood, as well as politicians in state functions, come to the consulates and cross the border to perform their voting duties. Edi Rama’s government cannot prevent Kurti from coming to Tirana, just as Aleksandar Vučić cannot prevent Dodik from voting in Serbia. They are citizens of Albania, i.e., Serbia. Only their own responsibility to the voters who brought them to high positions can prevent them from doing so. And these are not voters in the mother countries. They obviously do not have that responsibility, and that is why we have these political tourists, who, by voting at mother country, and in fact abroad, demonstrate their pretensions to political and even state unification.
That is why it is not surprising that the recent “non-paper” on the change of borders in the Balkans found such fertile ground, because behind the leaders who vote both here and there, there are hundreds of thousands of voters across the Balkans. Cartography, national unifications, this great and that great state are their favorite and perhaps the only political concept they are interested in. In fact, we are talking about right-wing populists, who have no other policy than national flags and maps, and in the Balkans, unfortunately, that is still enough to be in power.
Viola von Cramon is not the only European in a state of shock after Kurti’s vote in Tirana. Instead of being shocked and unable to understand what is happening, she and all her colleagues in the European Parliament, in the Commission, in all other European institutions could very easily prevent similar stressful situations in the future. It would be enough to “cool” the cooperation with these leaders-migrants, and even with their governments and political parties, because no European progress can result from the cooperation with them. They are simply not interested in that story; they clearly say it and show it with their gestures. Voting abroad, for example. They are not a “market” for the ideas and values of the European Union, they want something like “non-paper” and they are more than interested in its realization.
It is not a company that the EU wants for itself, regardless of whether they are in Banja Luka, Pristina, Podgorica or Mostar. That company is kept in view by some other pretenders of influence in the Balkans, and they are far from Brussels, Berlin and Paris. The Balkans that they would like to see is a region in which millions of supporters are gathering behind Kurti, Dodik, Čović, Krivokapić and the like, who see each other as blood enemies and are waiting for the opportunity to attack first. Just like thirty years ago when maps and ethnicities were also politically fashionable.
That is why it is good for both the EU and the Balkans that Viola von Cramon and all her colleagues who deal with the Balkans to get out of the state of shock as soon as possible, to come to their senses and turn to work with those in the Balkans with whom work is possible. Fortunately, there are still more of them and their support is still great. However, that does not have to last, especially if they continue to be shocked by the gestures of nationalists in Brussels, and at the same time blame their natural partners in the Balkans for not being Europeans enough. This is the right way to make something like a map from “non paper” in the Balkans, of course at the prices from the 90s.