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War Veterans Rally: Tensions Mount as Kosovo's Minimum Wage Law Sparks Protest
Kosovo war veterans protest new Minimum Wage Law, demanding equal pensions. Tensions rise as disruption of parliamentary sessions looms.
War veterans in Kosovo organized a protest on Saturday to express their opposition to the newly passed Minimum Wage Law. The law, approved on Thursday, July 13, 2023, does not guarantee veterans a pension equivalent to the minimum wage. In addition to the protest, the veterans have threatened to disrupt any parliamentary session.
While the government considers the law's approval a success, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) War Veterans Organization has opposed the adoption of the Minimum Wage Law.
The organization has warned that it will obstruct the functioning of the Kosovo Parliament during every session since the law does not guarantee veterans a pension at the level of the minimum wage.
"The leadership has decided that we will disrupt every session of the Kosovo Parliament with five or ten people, preventing them from holding sessions," said Faton Klinaku, acting chairman of the KLA War Veterans Organization.
The Minimum Wage Law stipulates that a veteran's pension should be determined by the Ministry of Finance. However, the veterans have not agreed with this provision.
Xhavit Jashari stated that the leaked audio recordings containing the communication between the head of the parliamentary group of the Self-Determination Movement and a deputy from the Serb List, in which veterans were mentioned, are a "stab in the back."
"This raises doubts that it was done in coordination with Belgrade to attack the KLA. This is a great shame for this government, and we will take action and support anyone who protests or expresses opposition against this government as an organization that emerged from the KLA War Veterans Organization," said Jashari from the KLA War Veterans Organization.
A protest against the Minimum Wage Law was announced by the veterans for Saturday, starting at 6:00 p.m., at Skenderbeu Square. It was supported by politicians who had been involved in corruption and pillaging Kosovo for decades, neglecting the war veterans and their families when they held executive power.
"The Kosovo government does not retreat from scandalous actions. Therefore, on Saturday, July 15, we all protest against government scandals, against coordination with Milorad Dodik! Against the violation of the rights of KLA fighters," stated the protest announcement.
Two opposition parties, PDK and LDK, have also opposed the law and linked its content to the leaked audio recordings.
With the new law, the minimum wage has been increased by 103 per cent, but Kosovo will still have the lowest minimum wage in the region.
Under this law, the minimum wage becomes 264 euros, and personal income tax is also eliminated for wages up to the level of the minimum wage.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti Challenges Veteran Numbers and Calls for Accurate Categorization in Kosovo
Just hours before the planned protest in Prishtina, Prime Minister Albin Kurti addressed the issue of war veterans, contesting the current number and stating that it is three times fewer. According to him, what is needed by the Government and the Parliament is the dossier held by the Prosecutor's Office to determine the accurate factual number of veterans.
During the launch of the election campaign in Suhodoll, a few hours before the protest in front of the Government, where they also opposed the newly approved Minimum Wage Law that does not enable KLA veterans to receive pensions at the new wage level, Prime Minister Albin Kurti expressed his conviction that there is a tripling of the number of veterans. He emphasized that according to the KLA commanders, the number of KLA members was around 20,000.
"I believe that in the liberation war, over 60,000 participants were involved, but there is a kind of tripling of the number of veterans, so it is necessary to call things by their proper names. According to the KLA commanders, the veterans number around 20,000, and if we add the participants, then they exceed 60,000. I am grateful and appreciative to all, but we cannot distort the liberation war," stated Kurti.
The Prime Minister also highlighted the need for cleansing the veterans' lists. He stated that what is required by the Government and the Parliament is the dossier held by the Prosecutor's Office to establish the accurate factual number of veterans.
"We do not need to distort our truth; accurate categorization is crucial. We cannot harm veterans by including participants in this category. Protecting the war is important, even for future generations of researchers, to have accurate data," emphasized Kurti.
Prime Minister Kurti underscored that KLA fighters cannot be harmed by making participants part of this category as well, stressing the importance of preserving the integrity of the veterans' category.