Kosovo's 2019 budget has awarded the defence ministry an extra six million euros to help begin the slow process of transforming the country's security force, KSF, into a regular army.
Kosovo’s Defence Ministry will have six million more euros to spend in the 2019 budget than it had last year – after the country’s parliament voted to expand the competences of the current lightly armed Kosovo Security Force, KSF, and start its transformation into a regular army.
The budget planned for defence in 2019 is 58.7 million euros; the previous year it was 52.3 million.
Of the total, 54.5 million euros is earmarked for the KSF, which did not respond to queries from BIRN about its military investment plans.
“Some 21.9 million euros are foreseen for the KSF on capital investments,” the Defence Ministry’s Ibrahim Shala clarified to BIRN.
The difference between KSF “capital investments” this year and 2018 would amount to about 3 million euros, according to Shala. He said the ministry received “over 17 million” for investments in 2018.
The government plans to invest gradually over several years in transforming the KSF into an army.
“In order not to overstretch the state budget during the process of transformation, the plan is to increase the budget for KSF by 5 million euros every year,” Shala said.
Kosovo’s parliament in December adopted three draft laws on the KSF, expanding its competences and creating a legal base for its transformation into a regular army.
By adopting laws that merely changed the current KSF’s powers, parliament bypassed the need to adopt the constitutional changes needed to establish a regular army – which Serbia opposes. (Belgrade rejects its former province’s independence, and remains wholly against it having a regular army.)
A constitutional obligation for that would require a “double majority” – meaning the support of two-thirds of all 120 MPs and two-thirds of the 20 ethnic non-Albanian MPs.
Kosovo Serb MPs, who hold 10 of the 20 seats in parliament reserved for non-Albanian communities, have blocked all such initiatives in the past.
Kosovo approved the laws despite warnings from NATO, which urged Kosovo to consult NATO and all the other relevant stakeholders in the country, primarily meaning the Kosovo Serb minority. NATO called the change “ill- timed”.
An expert on military issues and security in Kosovo, Ramadan Qehaja, recently told BIRN the voting of the laws is just the beginning of a long and difficult process of transforming the current force into an army.
Proper planning, according to Qehaja, is the main challenge that the force will face.
“It has to start from the very beginning, from the president to the last soldier in the row,” he said. Prioritising issues for operational readiness was another challenge that needs to be analyzed properly, he added.
Another challenge for the process will be budgetary issues, according to Qehaja. Kosovo has little money to spare on state-of-the-art defence equipment.
“Capacities will be completed gradually. We cannot say now what we will have in terms of armaments or armored vehicles,” he admitted.
But he suggested that planning could start now with the distribution of the armament that the current force has, followed by those that the country will receive as donations, or buy.