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Albin Kurti: Kosovo's new prime minister vows to rebuild Serbia ties

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Albin Kurti, the newly elected prime minister of Kosovo is congratulated by lawmakers after the new government was elected in the capital Pristina, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.
Albin Kurti, the newly elected prime minister of Kosovo is congratulated by lawmakers after the new government was elected in the capital Pristina, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.   -  
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(AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu) - Visar Kryeziu
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It has been four months since Kosovans went to the polls to choose a new government. Now, 44-year-old Albin Kurti, leader of the Self-Determination Movement, or Vetevendosje!, has been voted in as prime minister.

Kosovo's election was neck and neck, with Kurti's Vetevendosje! winning 29 seats in parliament to the center-right Democratic League of Kosovo, or LDK's, 28. For months, the two parties argued over who should take the role of prime minister, until finally Kurti was chosen.

He received 66 votes in favour and 10 against, whilst the opposition left the parliament chamber in protest.

Kurti has a populist streak that has seen him promise to slash cabinet ministries from 22 to 15 and root out corruption in the tiny Balkan state.

“We shall be a government that spares public money. Less spending on posts and privileges so that we spend more on projects,” he said when introducing his program, AP reported Monday.

A snap election in October was held after the summer resignation of the then prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, who was summoned by the war crimes prosecutor in the Hague.

The deal was announced a day before the expiry of a two-week deadline imposed by President Hashim Thaci and following high-profile visits to the country from the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, and the US Special Envoy to Serbia and Kosovo, Ambassador Richard Grenell.

Serbia

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but isn't recognised by Belgrade.

Kurti has vowed to improve relations with Serbia, where he spent two-and-a-half years in prison for his action in the independence movement. He was released in 2001.

He said he was ready to “lead the Kosovo team in the future talks with Serbia.”

First among the discussions will be a 100% tariff imposed on Serbian goods by the previous Kosovan government, which Belgrade has criticised as "uncivilised." Kurti said that future trading between the two states will be based on "reciprocity."

“With Serbia we shall turn back to full commercial, economic and political reciprocity,” he said.

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