Kosovo trade unions are challenging government privatisation initiatives.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 08/10/12
Some government officials have requested a commission to investigate privatisations of large Kosovo companies. [Reuters]
Kosovo civil society and trade unions are opposed the privatisation of Kosovo Post and Telecom (KPT), Electricity Distribution (KEK) and Trepca mine complex, but the government plans to go ahead with them. Lack of transparency, corruption and low sales prices have driven many groups in the region to oppose government sales of major assets.
The Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo said they oppose the privatisation of large companies in Kosovo because the process will not improve the economy, and be in citizen interest.
Haxhi Arifi, the BSPK president, told SETimes that the unions generally do not oppose privatisations, but the way in which strategic companies are privatised.
"We the BSPK, as government partners, have not yet discussed the privatisation at the economic and social council. But, we wish to discuss the PTK and KEK privatisations, and learn how they are conducted, starting with the price offer," Arifi said.
Agron Demi, executive director of GAP Institute for Advanced Studies in Pristina, told SETimes that in all countries, even the most industrialised ones, privatisation is initially characterised by a fierce opposition of trade unions.
"In Kosovo, from the start, privatisation is viewed as a political move, with an argument that privatisation is happening to open doors of Kosovo independence, rather than being an economic means for the [country's] best sustainable development," Demi said.
More than 60,000 petition signatures were collected to counter the current Kosovo privatisations.
"BSPK initiative has gained a broad support having collected over 60,000 signatures -- one of the major BSPK activities in recent years, showing a general opposition to privatisation of public enterprises," said Demi.
Shpend Ahmeti, the deputy chairman of the Vetvendosje Movement, told SETimes that the privatisations are not in the interest of Kosovo citizens, but harm the country's economy.
"There is no reason for the privatisation and distribution of these companies, for many reasons -- it's a natural monopoly and electricity is a public interest that private companies do not safeguard. PTK is a profitable company bringing in millions of euros to Kosovo budget, and I see no reason for its privatisation," Ahmeti said.
Arifi said that BSPK "wants to trump decisions about the issues -- working conditions, length of contracts -- so that workers can continue to work."
According to Ahmeti, Vetvendosje will continue opposing the privatisations by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's government.
"[The government] is aiming to finish projects before they leave office, so they rush to personally benefit from privatisations, but severely impoverish Kosovo citizens. This should not be allowed," Ahmeti said.
Now workers have put more pressure on BSPK, according to Demi, because there are a high number of employees in PTK and KEK.
Kosovo Parliament Speaker Jakup Krasniqi said the 2010 elections were followed by massive frauds, which in turn do not legitimise the government and assembly to conduct privatisations.
"The legislature is based on stolen elections. Institutions were formed based on stolen elections, and as such are not legitimate to privatise public assets, and vital national interests," Krasniqi said.
Fatmir Limaj, deputy chairman of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, called for an inquiry commission that would investigate the privatisations.
"Kosovo assembly has an obligation to form an inquiry commission with a clear agenda to analyse the process of privatisation and finally remove all doubts and dilemmas over the privatisation," Limaj said.
Kosovo' Economy Ministry is expected to announce the winner of the bid for 75 percent of the shares in KPT soon. KEK was sold in June, and the contract is expected to be signed this month.
By the end of the year, the government and the privatisation agency are expected to either sell or liquidate the Trepca mine complex.
In Albania, the Socialist Party is opposed to the privatisation of Alb Petrol -- the national petroleum company. They claim that Albania's underground assets are worth 30 million tonnes of oil, which amounts to 13.5 billion euros on the current market, while the investor offered 850 million euros.
In Serbia, the EU requested investigations of largest government-approved privatisation cases that are currently under way.