Kosovo's government on Thursday approved a new bill on the Kosovo Security Force, KSF, expanding its competences but avoiding the need for constitutional changes required to change it into a regular army.
The proposal came from Rrustem Berisha, Minister of the Kosovo Security Force, and provides for the gradual transformation of the FSK.
“What is foreseen is a gradual transformation of KSF into an organisation whose mission is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo”, a memo of the draft law seen by BIRN says.
The government also approved a draft law on serving in the KSF and a recommendation for approval of draft law on the organization of the Defence Ministry.
“The draft law on the KSF determines the competences, organisation and the functioning of the KSF as a multiethnic, professional force, protecting the territorial integrity of the interests of Kosovo citizens," Berisha said during the government meeting.
However, President Hashim Thaci, only minutes ahead of the government’s decision, stated that he had not been informed about the proposal and would need to consult Kosovo's strategic partners.
“I also do not believe the United States of America and NATO have been informed, because then I would be informed also,” Thaci said.
Thaci welcomed the idea of the formation of a regular army - but only in partnership with NATO and the country's allies.
He deplored “an action on our own to isolate and seriously harm the multiethnic mission of the government.
“I think that proceeding with the issue today is the wrong moment because we do not need to send such a message to our allies,” Thaci stated.
The proposal approved by the government does not need any constitutional changes but needs only a simple majority vote in parliament.
Kosovo has long sought to form a regular army against bitter opposition from Serbia and from the Serbian minority in Kosovo.
The idea has also failed to win support from Kosovo's Western partners who feel it is provocative ahead of a final settlement with Serbia.
Over the last year, Kosovo institutions tried in vain to change the KSF's mandate and incorporate it into the regular army by a form of stealth.
However, these plans have run up against a constitutional obligation requiring a “double majority” in parliament – meaning the support of two-thirds of all MPs and two-thirds of the 20 ethnic non-Albanian MPs.
Kosovo Serb MPs, who hold 10 of the 20 seats reserved for non-Albanian communities, blocked the initiative.