Vetvendosje says it will continue with actions against the privatisation of KEK Distribution, but Kosovo officials say the deal is important in moving to a free market economy.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 18/10/12
Kosovo's interior minister ordered police to arrest protestors interfering with the privatisation deal. [Reuters]
At least 66 people were arrested Wednesday (October 17th) in Pristina after clashing with police at the entrance to a government building while protesting a deal with a Turkish company to privatise Kosovo's electricity distribution network.
The protests were led by MPs from the Vetvendosje movement. Vetvendosje said that they planned to protest outside the building, but also that their MPs were to be present at the signing ceremony. The movement's MPs were blocked by police, and arrests were ordered by Bajram Rexhepi, minister of interior affairs.
"Yes, it is true that I gave the order and the order should have been applied more rigorously [by police]," Rexhepi said. "I also want to inform you that according to the Constitution and existing laws it will not be allowed … to block institutions."
Visar Ymeri, a Vetvendosje MP and deputy chairman of the assembly, said Rexhipi's order violated the police chain of command. "He has ordered to beat us because he is saying [police] should have been rigorous," Ymeri said.
Although the opposition, civil society groups and the trade union opposed the privatisation of the KEK Distribution System, the government signed the agreement with the Turkish consortium Çalik-Limak for 26.3 million euros, a price which is considered low compared to the assets of the company.
Lumir Abdixhiku, executive director of RIINVEST Institute in Pristina, told SETimes the privatisation process has not been transparent. "They believe that the process of privatisation in Kosovo has gone more towards the depreciation of assets than to preserve their value and consequently the sale of assets at prices conform their real value," Abdixhiku said.
Anela Hoxha, a researcher at Centre for Regional Studies in Tirana, told SETimes that the privatisation process also will have consequences when it comes to the relations with some countries.
"A Turkish company is now the owner. Çalik-Limak has been present in Kosovo in recent years, and in the eyes of the people and many MPs, Turkish investors are coming to Kosovo to buy cheap as possible the companies, and this will have in long-term implications for the relations with Turkey, because future governments might revise the privatisation process of certain companies," Hoxha said.
Abdixhiku said that the sale price also raises suspicions. "The value of the asset does not coincide as closely with the value of sold, so [the deal] aroused doubts about severe corruption affairs in the process."
Besim Beqaj, the economic development minister, said the privatisation is an important moment for Kosovo's future.
"According to the constitution of the country, we are set for a free market economy, we are determined to provide the best possible services to the citizens of Kosovo," Beqaj said.
Nihat Ozdemir, a representative of Çalik-Limak Energy, said during the ceremony that Kosovo's citizens will get more qualitative energy.
"Kosovo Group Çalik-Limak Energy in the next 15 years for the distribution of electricity in Kosovo will make an investment of 300 million euros," Ozdemir said.