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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Are Calls For An International Investigation Into Prime Minister Golob’s Affair The Reason For Foreign Minister Fajon’s Visit To Kosovo?

By Gal Kovač (nova24tv.si)

Prime Minister Golob’s Kosovo affair is getting deeper and deeper. This time, a Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) MP, Abelard Tahiri, has spoken out, demanding an international investigation into Martin Berishaj, the Kosovo ambassador in Zagreb. At one point, Berishaj withdrew 1.4 million euros from his account, with the money allegedly coming from Slovenia. When such a large sum of money was withdrawn, the state institutions in Kosovo should have reacted immediately, but they did not, and this could not have happened without a political cover-up at the very top of the country. At the same time, our Foreign Minister, Fanja Fajon, has been visiting Kosovo in recent days, right when the Golob “financier” affair is raging. We spoke to MEP Milan Zver about this, who argues that there are always two sides to each visit. There is the formal and the informal. Minister Fajon might talk in public about pursuing Slovenia’s strategic interests, but informally she might be there to talk about something else as well, including our Prime Minister, the Gen-I energy company where he was previously employed as the President of the Management Board, and the money that has flown into Albania and Kosovo.

The gist of the affair is that during Golob’s leadership of the Gen-I energy company, huge sums of money flowed into Priština and Tirana, officially as part of Gen-I’s normal business operations, while unofficially, the money from these transactions flowed into, among other things, the transaction accounts of Kosovo’s political leadership. It was allegedly used to finance the campaign of the current Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, of the leftist Self-Determination movement, which is part of the socialist international and the Progressive Alliance, like our own Social Democrats (Socialni Demokrati – SD), represented by Tanja Fajon. Ambassador Martin Berishaj is said to have been particularly instrumental here, withdrawing huge sums of money from transaction accounts, without the competent institutions in Kosovo reacting to it.

As the Serbian media reported recently, according to the latest figures, 100 million euros allegedly came from Gen-I to Kosovo and Albania. This is much more than what our media outlet, Planet TV, reported last year, which concluded, based on the data from the application for public money spending – Erar, that 14 million euros had been transferred to Kurti’s campaign in Kosovo through the Tirana branch. Serbian media reported recently that in 2019 and 2020 alone, Ambassador Berishaj allegedly withdrew (in at least 13 withdrawals) more than 500 thousand euros from transaction accounts, suspected to have originated from our Gen-I, which had at the time been headed by the current Prime Minister, Robert Golob. But the funds withdrawn by Berishaj are said to be much higher, with the Express reporting that the sum was close to 1.4 million euros.

“Imagine if 1.4 million was withdrawn in this way and the institutions did not react. This is terrible. The President’s failure to react and to dismiss him and to launch international investigations makes him directly responsible and implicated in this affair,” PDK MP Tahiri told reporters yesterday. He also explained that Ambassador Berishaj had failed to properly report the controversial withdrawal of money. First of all, he had declared a sum lower than the one in question, which is said to be less than 600 thousand euros. He has generally kept quiet about the funds he received from the Slovenian company Gen-I, reports the Kosovo Express. According to media reports, the person who covered for Berishaj, which allowed for the blindness and silence of the institutions, was the very Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, who is said to be a personal friend of Berishaj.

What was Tanja Fajon doing in Kosovo?

In the wake of Tahiri’s recent statement, which sent shockwaves through the Balkans, our Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon also appeared in Kosovo and was given a special welcome by the protesters. Protesters from the Kosovo Socialist Party demanded the resignation of diplomat Berishaj, waving a banner in the shape of a 500-euro note with Berishaj’s face printed on it.

We called MEP Milan Zver for a comment on Fajon’s visit, and he began by saying that such visits always have their formal and their informal side. On the formal side, he said, the Foreign Minister would emphasise that she was implementing the European Union’s strategic foreign policy, which seeks to integrate the Balkan countries more closely into the Western space, and according to her statements, she will also report on her work to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell“I doubt that she has any special formal envoy, as Slovenia does not even currently hold the EU presidency, which might have allowed it to afford such intensive visits and actions in the Balkans on behalf of the EU.”

Milan Zver on the true motives of the Foreign Minister

Zver then said that the previous government, led by Janez Janša, successfully redirected Slovenian foreign policy back to where it should have always been, towards Brussels, the Euro-Atlantic ties, and good neighbourly relations. It is worth noting that Tanja Fajon promoted a turn of Slovenian foreign policy towards the core countries of Europe in her election campaign, which is why the intensity of her visits to the Balkans now seems a little unusual. At this point, Zver went on to say, we can start thinking about other reasons for these visits. “One of these could be a rather serious diplomatic incident, a scandal, in fact, in which Slovenian politics is directly involved. This might have been just a corrupt part of the Slovenian economy a few months ago, but all of the indications now point to the fact that Slovenian politics is directly involved,” said Zver, adding, “The minister was probably trying to solve this problem, which is a big stain on the reputation of Slovenian politics. Now the Serbian media are already writing about a serious scandal, and they are right. We were dragged into this by the diplomat Berishaj and the former President of the Management Board of the Gen-I energy company, our current Prime Minister, Robert Golob.” The MEP concluded that the real motivation for the Foreign Minister’s Balkan tour could have been something other than what she is publicly proclaiming.

It is also a fact that Kurti comes from the same political family as Fajon’s Social Democrats, and this could also lead her to try to rescue her Kosovo political colleague and the Slovenian Prime Minister at the same time with her visit.

What impact will the affair have on Slovenian politics?

Zver goes on to explain that the affair will have a major impact on Slovenia’s internal political relations. “The case is currently being investigated by the competent authorities in Priština, but the matter will certainly reach another level. Prosecutors’ offices in three different countries will have to move, and sooner or later, this will have an impact on Slovenia’s internal politics. This may already be happening, just look at the latest opinion polls. There could be a political crisis, and in Slovenia, it could happen relatively quickly. The question is whether this affair will bring down the whole coalition or whether a replacement for Golob will be found. He would be replaced by someone who is not involved in such affairs,” Zver added.

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