The informal meeting of the leaders of the Western Balkans on July 17 in Tirana was the cause of disinformation about the participation of the Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti and his deputy Besnik Bislimi. The media narrative with a pro-government approach in Albania was blaming Kosovo officials. In the meantime, certain online platforms propagated false and unverified information sourced from official channels, leading to public confusion.
The leaders of the Western Balkans participated on Monday, July 17, in an informal meeting organized by the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama. In the presence of Oliver Varhelyi, the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, the Prime Ministers of Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia convened to deliberate on the strategy and key focal points of the Berlin Process, culminating in a summit scheduled for October 16th in Tirana.
Meanwhile, the outcomes of the informal meeting held on July 17 were overshadowed by a more sensational development: the complete nonattendance of representatives from Kosovo, including both Prime Minister Albin Kurti and his deputy.
Considerable speculation arose concerning the absence of Kosovo’s representatives, particularly in light of the deliberate exchange of comments between Rama and Kurti, along with the abrupt cancellation of the scheduled government meeting on June 14th.
Did Kurt boycott the meeting?
The absence of the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Kurti, was announced a day before the meeting was to take place in Tirana. The announcement was made by Përparim Kryeziu, the spokesperson of the Kosovo Government, through a Facebook post. The post stated, “Prime Minister Kurti conveyed to Prime Minister Rama that, due to a prior commitment to attend a conference in Crete, Greece, he would be unable to attend this time.” In the same post, it was also revealed that Kurti’s participation had been confirmed for the October 16 Summit of the Berlin Process, slated to take place in Tirana.
Source : ABC News
Source : Top Channel
Kurti’s absence, despite being justified by Kryeziu, was revealed by the opposition in Kosovo and the media as a deliberate boycott. Various analysts considered it harmful for Kosovo’s reputation, and its journey towards the European Union. Kurti’s absence was also interpreted as a response to the Prime Minister of Albania Rama and the decision of the Albanian government to cancel the meeting between the two governments scheduled to take place on June 14.
Source : Euronews Albania
Vlora Çitaku, PDK’s vice chairperson, described Kurti’s decision as childish and politically irresponsible. She also blamed Kurt’s relationship with Rama.
“In such meetings, your non-participation is no longer your personal rejection of Rama. There is nothing personal here,” she said.
Kurt’s absence gave “voice” to another unclear situation. Media outlets deliberated on the involvement of Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister, Besnik Bislimi, in the upcoming event in Tirana.
In the initial reports regarding Kurti’s nonattendance, it was indicated that Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi would stand in for him at the meeting.
Source: Zgjohu shqiptar
However, on the morning of July 17, the day of the meeting, Albanian media disclosed that despite Kosovo’s earlier confirmation of Bislim’s attendance, the Albanian government later conveyed that Bislim’s participation in the meeting was precluded due to protocol reasons.
The report did not elaborate on the specific protocol in question; it merely indicated that Bislim’s subordinate position rendered him unsuitable as a representative for the summit among the Balkan state leaders.
Source : ABC News
Albanian media portrayed this decision with additional personal nuances. The media not only reported Bislim’s exclusion from participation but also depicted it as his expulsion from the Tirana Summit. Using the narrative “kicked out Albin Kurti’s deputy,” they emphasized the fact that – both Kurti’s decision not to come to Tirana – and the “kicking out of Bislim” come as a result of the cold war between Kurti and Rama.
Source : Gazeta Tema
A few hours after the Albanian media reported that Bislim was denied participation, the spokesperson of the Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo issued a statement to Top Channel which contradicts this narrative. Klisman Kadiu, the advisor for Media, said that there was never a plan for Bislimi to go to Tirana.
“Yesterday’s news about Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi’s participation in the informal meeting in Tirana is not true. It was not planned, let alone confirmed.
Since there was no confirmation from Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi, then it was not even possible to refuse his participation or his presence,” said Kadiu.
Source: Gazeta Tema
In order to have more information about this issue, Faktoje officially asked the Prime Minister of Albania and the Agency for Media and Information.
As of now, even after the deadline for a response has lapsed, we are still awaiting a reply from their end.
*This article was produced as part of the regional initiative the Center Against Disinformation of the Western Balkans