The “Pronto” scandal: Wire-tapping senior officials in Kosovo

by Fitim Salihu

It’s been a month since one of the main portals in Kosovo, “Insajderi”, began publishing a series of tapped telephone conversations among senior political officials in Kosovo. This was the biggest scandal of its kind since the liberation of the country and the reaction of public opinion was strong, but not strong enough to threaten the continuation of this ruling establishment, namely the coalition of the two largest parties in the country – the Democratic Party and Democratic League.

The focus of the tapped phone calls was Adem Grabovci, the chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Party and one of the most powerful people in his party and in Kosovo. The tapping was carried out in 2010-2011 during the investigation case against the Ministry of Transport, when Adem Grabovci was deputy minister of this Ministry. A part of the conversations was leaked in 2012, in what would has come to be known as the “Pronto” dossier, because of the word “pronto” – trying to speak Italian to imitate gangsters of the Italian mafia films – that Adem Grabovci and other associates of Hashim Thaçi used when talking to each other. Although the conversations, among other things, revealed an array of power abuse, lynching political opponents, the scandal did not cause a lot of fuss, mainly because not many videos were released.

On August 1st of this year, the portal “Insajderi” decided to publish around 1000 telephone conversations of Grabovci with other officials of the ruling party. The scandal – which received the nickname “Pronto 2” – was more voluminous and scandalous in terms of its content, private conversations that the higher state leadership carried out on phone. “Pronto II” involves, apart from Adem Grabovci, who calls himself “chief of the chiefs” and ” a cunning diplomat”, the current President of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi (former prime minister), Kadri Veseli – now chairman of Parliament and the leader of the largest party in the country – the Democratic Party, and many other senior officials of the party.

The revelations of the wire taps are juicy, although what they find has already been an open secret for the public in Kosovo: the Democratic Party has an absolute control of the country, controlling tenders, controlling the boards of public enterprises, controlling the civil staff of ministries, controlling the Attorney General, controlling the Police, controlling universities, controlling a lot of the media, having clientelist liaisons with big capital, and so on. The wire taps confirmed and provided evidence of all this. Through the phone calls, i.e. through the voice of the chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Party, Adem Grabovci, we learn how he finds jobs for the party militants across the boards of public enterprises and the councils of universities, how he excludes from the ‘list’ people who have competed in public office only because they are not sympathizers or members of the Democratic Party, or because he doesn’t recognize them personally, how he uses an insulting discourse with the political opponents and ethnic minorities in Kosovo, how he mocks speaking about respect of the law and the construction of state of the Republic of Kosovo, how he orders journalists what to write in their articles, and how he appoints people to boards when they do not even know the name of the enterprise (as is the case with a militant appointed at the Transmission of Energy Enterprise, who said to Grabovci that he has neither the competence nor knowledge of what this enterprise is), among others…

Through the taps, you can hear insults against political opponents, both inside and outside the Democratic Party, calling them “diabetics”, “idiots”, “cows”, etc. The chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Democratic Party and a deputy of this party called the Roma community “Madzupi” and “Gabel”, while the Serbs were called pejoratively “Shkije”; the current President, Hashim Thaçi, and the then prime minister of Kosovo and President of the Democratic Party, in one of the calls, says to Grabovci that he “will play around (zajeb) with the Americans”.

After the taps were made public, Adem Grabovci resigned as chairman of the parliamentary group, but not from the position of deputy of the Assembly. Furthermore he accused the aforementioned portal and civil society of terrorizing his family with the propaganda against him.

About two weeks after the scandal broke, the Attorney General announced that they have begun investigations against Adem Grabovci and other officials involved in this scandal. A few days after the publication of wiretaps, representatives of NGOs and citizens began organizing peaceful marches, of which a dozen have so far taken place, demanding the resignation of Adem Grabovci, Hashim Thaçi and Kadri Veseli.

On the other hand, the opposition reacted through press releases stating that their allegations on the crime and corruption of the Democratic Party and the government are proven and that these wire taps are just a sample of the existing model of misrule. But, to balance the situation, the “Express” portal, a few days after the scandal “Pronto II”, revealed another scandal – this time implicating the opposition. The scandal revealed that the same scheme was used by them, regarding their militants’ employment, but this time managed by someone else and in a different place. According to the published documents, the biggest opposition party, the “Self-determination” Movement that governs the capital, Prishtina, has employed tens of party militants in the municipal administration. Although theirs is not a parallel comparison with the Democratic Party’s capture of the public posts through political pressure, the scandal had the effect of disappointing citizens, who saw how the opposition and the majority uses power to accommodate its militants.

“Pronto II” is somewhat faded now, following a month since “Insajderi” every day published wire taps of senior state officials. With “Self-determination” organizing protests against the Demarcation Agreement with Montenegro, “Pronto” fell from public limelight, despite being the biggest wire tapping scandal in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, civil society protests and the Attorney’s investigations continue. The results of the investigations are expected to emerge in the weeks to come. Until then, one thing every citizen of Kosovo has realized is that she or he cannot be in a state job without also being a militant of a political party, especially of the Democratic Party.

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