Kosovan parliament rejects Danish prisoner exchange agreement

Kosovo has rejected a proposal to lease some 300 prison cells to Denmark, in exchange for multi-million euro funding towards its green transition. It’s not the first time the draft law has been rejected and Kosovo’s Justice Minister says Danish-Kosovan relations have suffered.

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Kosovo’s parliament has rejected a draft agreement with Denmark that would see Kosovo lease some 300 prison cells to foreign national prisoners serving sentences in Denmark, in exchange for multi-million euro funding towards its green transition.

Only one MP from the main opposition party, Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), voted on the law, while one MP from Vetëvendosje (VV) – the party with the largest parliamentary mandate, abstained, according to leading Kosovan media outlet KOHA.

“The Assembly has not been able to approve the Draft Law for the ratification of the Treaty between the Republic of Kosovo and the Kingdom of Denmark for the use of the correctional institution in Gjilan for the purpose of executing Danish sentences,” reports KOHA.

The update was also broadcast on X by the English-language Kosovan news channel kos_data.

Under the agreement, Kosovo would have received EUR 210 million (DKK 1.5 billion) from Denmark, dedicated to renewable energy projects.

Kosovo’s Deputy Minister of Justice Blerim Sallahu said the rejection had harmed Denmark-Kosovo relations.

“With the vote of certain opposition members against this agreement, the relationship between Kosovo and Denmark has been damaged,” he wrote on Facebook, according to KOHA.

“In addition, Kosovo has lost 210 million euros because several members of parliament from the opposition have voted against this agreement. A shame,” he added.

The Kosovan opposition has continually blocked the Danish prisoner exchange law since it was first proposed in 2022.

Kosovo has a multi-party system with numerous political parties, in which no one party can rule alone and the government is always a coalition. 

A two-thirds majority is required in parliament for new international agreements to be adopted. Therefore, the government needs support from opposition parties. 

On Tuesday, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu told Ritzau that “just a little more work is needed” to get enough opposition members to vote in favour of the deal.

It appeared to have succeeded on Wednesday, when the main opposition party’s prime ministerial candidate announced that his party was now ready to vote in favour of several international agreements that have been in limbo for nearly a year.

But Thursday’s vote on the agreement again fell short of the two-thirds majority. Denmark had otherwise originally expected to send its first inmates to the Gjilan prison in early 2023. 

Now, as the agreement hits new stumbling blocks, it is uncertain whether the law will pass.  

The framework of offering financial support in exchange for sending inmates abroad is not without precedent.

In May 2023, the UK and Albania agreed on an arrangement that would see 200 Albanian prisoners serving at least four years in prisons in England returned to their home country in exchange for UK support to help modernise the Albanian prison system.