PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo’s parliament approved a new government on Monday after weeks of coalition talks, and Prime Minister Albin Kurti promised to take a tough stance in negotiations with Balkan rival Serbia.

Kurti, 44, also told parliament before the vote of approval – won with 66 votes in the 120-seat assembly – that he would fight corruption and nepotism, which foreign businesses cite as the main obstacles to investment in Kosovo.

After weeks of coalition talks following a snap election in October, Kurti’s leftist Vetevendosje (Self Determination) party reached a deal with the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo on Sunday to create a government.

One of the main challenges facing the government, which also includes six groups representing Serbs, Turks, Bosniaks and other ethnic minorities, is negotiating with Serbia.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo after NATO bombing in 1999 to drive out Serb forces following a counter-insurgency in which more than 13,000 people, mainly Kosovo Albanians, were killed.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but Belgrade does not recognize its independence and the two have not normalized ties.

European Union-sponsored talks between Kosovo and Serbia came to a halt in November 2018 when Kosovo introduced a 100% tax on goods produced in Serbia. In the election campaign, Kurti said he would lift trade tariffs but introduce other measures.

“With Serbia we will have a full reciprocity in trade, politics and economy. I am ready to lead the talks with Serbia,” Kurti told parliament.

He said he his government would sue Serbia before the International Court of Justice for crimes Serbian forces are accused of committing during the 1998-99 war.

Kurti said he intends to introduce three-month military conscription and, promising to fight corruption, he said “there will be no individual or company that will be more powerful than the state.”

The finance minister will be Besnik Bislimi, a macroeconomics professor who studied in Germany.

Kosovo held the October election following the resignation of Ramush Haradinaj as prime minister after he was summoned for questioning by an EU-funded war crimes court.

Editing by Timothy Heritage


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