Thursday, April 01, 2010

Kosova cabinet gets overhaul

April 1, 2010

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci announced a government reshuffle Wednesday (March 31st). Six ministers are being replaced -- three from Thaci's Democratic Party (PDK) and three from its governing partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

Meanwhile, Besim Beqaj will head the newly-created ministry of integration.

Party officials say the changes could help inject new momentum into Thaci's administration, at a time of widespread concern that not enough is being done to stem public corruption.

There was consensus among the LDK "to have these ministers replaced with others who would bring new energy", Sali Asllanaj, a member of the party presidency, told local media.

As he announced the shuffle, Thaci thanked the replaced ministers for their service, saying each of them "deserves adequate appreciation". He also stressed that his administration is taking steps to promote good governance, saying the first phase of its action plan is now complete.

Edita Tahiri is the new public services minister. She is a former LDK senior official who left to form her own party. The PDK's Bajram Rexhepi, who was prime minister from March 2002 to December 2004, is the new minister of internal affairs. The incoming health minister is Bujar Bukoshi, who served as prime minister in Kosovo's "shadow government" during the period of direct rule from Belgrade.

University professor Haki Demolli, an LDK member, will take over the justice portfolio, while the agriculture ministry will be headed up by PDK spokesman Blerand Stavileci. The new minister of culture will be Lutfi Haziri, a senior LDK official and former deputy prime minister.

The reshuffle failed to impress opposition parties in Kosovo, which responded by saying that personnel changes do not necessarily lead to more efficiency.

"The victims of all this are the small fish," the news agency Kosovapress quoted senior opposition officials as saying.

Residents who spoke to SETimes had a mix of opinions.

"It seems the biggest parties have made a deal to govern Kosovo, and that's how it's going to go. I'm afraid this will last for a long time," said Muhamet, a civil servant.

"The interesting thing is that all the ministers about whom there were no corruption rumors were replaced," said Arben, a sales assistant in Pristina. "It seems they were not corrupt enough."

Lule, a doctor, voiced hope that the switch at the health ministry will bring long-awaited improvements. "The health system in Kosovo is in a miserable situation; the salaries are low and as doctors, even our professional integrity is being violated," he told SETimes.

"I really hope that the changes will bring changes in the health system, for good, and that the reforms promised for years will finally start. This situation is not stable -- neither for us, nor for our patients," he added.

The replaced ministers are Nekibe Kelmendi (justice), Zenun Paiaziti (internal affairs), Alush Gashi (health), Valton Beqiri (culture), Asrim Bajrami (public administration) and Idriz Vehapi (agriculture).

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