Hundreds of former Kosovo fighters are demanding that the government find a solution for their difficult economic situation.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 26/09/12
Former Kosovo fighters face tough times. [Reuters]
Former members of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) who did not join the Kosovo Security Force (KSF)) have asked that the government look into their tough economic situation, warning they would go on a strike if their demands are not met.
The group, who are seeking employment or financial assistance, met with KSF Minister Agim Ceku last week.
"They served the country in difficult times and now themselves face economic difficulties," Ceku said, according to Ali Uka, a spokesperson for the KSF ministry. Ceku also appealed to public institutions and private organisations to prioritise jobs for the former KPC members.
The KPC was formed in 1999 with the demilitarisation and disbanding of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). In 2009, KPC became the KSF, which has 1,400 members.
Safet Syla, the head of the office that assists KPC fighters at the KSF ministry, told SETimes the office has been functional since June 14th and is working with the UNDP and an employment agency to aid the former members in finding jobs or starting small businesses.
Syla said that 1,463 former KPC members were not eligible to become KSF members due to lack of space and failing required tests, and about 650 of those retired. More than 300 KSF members work in state institutions, yet a considerable number are still unemployed.
Hyrije Veliu, a former UCK fighter and a former KPC member, is dissatisfied with the way former fighters were treated after the war. "Most live in harsh economic conditions, with no institutional support, and the veterans' law is not approved yet since it had many shortcomings," she said.
"Having been part of the KPC, I personally feel that we were unjustly dealt with," Veliu said, adding that the KPC promised them jobs, but most have not been employed yet.
"I applied [for a job] at least at four places, following all application procedures, but other candidates were hired, those that had somebody to 'intervene' for him or her," Veliu said.
Rexhep Selimi, a former UCK commander who is now an MP, said Kosovo had about 20,000 fighters in its units -- 5,000 in the KPC and about 2,000 in the Kosovo police. The KSF has about 2,500 members and, according to Selimi, only about half of those are former UCK fighters.
"Veteran rights and benefits should be guaranteed by law, defined in line with their rights and obligations by the state. The law should guarantee benefits for the veterans and their families," Selimi told SETimes.