Behgjet Pacolli may be about to become the President of Kosovo, but he first needs to survive the vicious media lynching he has faced over the past week. Ever since it became clear a week ago that he was on his way to the Presidency, some media in Kosovo and elsewhere have waged a coordinated and disgusting attack against him. He has been called a Russian spy, a Slavic sympathizer (a big no no in Kosovo),a traitor and some have even question whether he is Albanian at all.
The campaign seems to be directed by the Koha Group who publishes Koha Ditore and also owns the Koha TV. Both, the newspaper and the TV, seem to have ditched any sense of professionalism and have gone on an attack mode against the future President. Koha Group is owned by Veton Surroi,whose father, Rexhai Surroi, was a prominent Ambassador of Former Yugoslavia. The irony of these attacks is that Surroi, who harbors Presidential ambitions himself, has been accused over the years of being pro Slavic ( a.k.a pro Serb) on account of his fathers work for Yugoslavia.
Mr. Pacolli initially ignored these attacks, but the other day he was forced to issue a statement denying all allegations against him and essentially saying he feels physically threatened by the propaganda.
Here are some of the things that have appeared on Koha Ditore and other media owned by the Koha Group:
"There are suspicions that Pacolli is Russian Trojan Horse",
" Pacolli unacceptable",
" Pacolli: I want to be the Tito of Kosovo",
" Pacolli: Serbia is a mother to Kosovo",
" Pacolli: Kosovo cannot do without Serbia".
This is just a sample of the things they have said. Other comments on their online website compare Pacolli to the illiterate thug Ramzan Kadyrov, Russia's puppeteer in Chechnya. The implication is clear here: Pacolli is a Russian/Serbian puppeteer and hence he will work against interest of Kosovo. The question is, are there any facts to seriously back these claims? Well, I took a look at the context he made these comments and all of his work over the years and there is nothing to support this slanderous campaign against him.
There is no There There:
The Russian Trojan Horse Allegation:
This allegation is based on the fact that Pacolli and his Mabetex Group have done major construction work in Russia, making him million of dollars. He essentially build and renovated all of the government buildings used by the Kremlin,including the parliament and the White House( see video here: starts at 4:10). This he did in early 1990's, when Boris Yeltsin was President.
So the questions arises: For such a small company ( at the time),how did he get these major contracts? There appears to be a reasonable explanations: In early 1990 he was working on a small project in Yakutia where he befriended Mayor Pavel Borodin who later became head of Presidential Property Management Department. In essence Pacolli knew the right people in the right places. There were allegation that he essentially paid off this person, which is quite possible in Russia of early 1990', but there was an investigation by the Russian prospector which later was dropped out for lack of evidence. In fact, Mr. Pacolli sued the lead Russian prosecutor Yuri Skuratov for libel and won the case and one million dollar in damages.
Again, Pacolli appear to have known the right people at the right places. The fact that he has not won any major contract in Russia in over 10 years, appears to support this theory.Kudos to him for winning this contract and for doing such an incredible job building the Kremlin (and now the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana). Pacolli does not appear to have any kind of connection whatsoever with the current folks running the Kremlin. Nothing to see here but another possible slanderous lawsuit again the Koha Group.
Pacolli: I want to be the Tito of Kosovo
This, and the other comments where he appears to suggest Serbia was the mother of Kosovo, were made to tabloid Croatian and Serbian tabloid newspapers known for wild sensationalism.When one reads these interviews in context, it's clear he was attempting to use metaphors to describe certain action. The " I want to be the Tito of Kosovo" in fact was a metaphor to say that I want to do good for Kosovo as Tito did for Yugoslavia. In former Yugoslavia most people, at the time,thought that TITO did some good work, rising the standard of living everywhere. The " Serbia is Kosovo's mother" was a poor metaphor in Pacollis' part. He was in effect saying, Kosovo had to split from Serbia just like a child is taken a way from an abusive mother. The tabloid media converted this into: Pacolli said Serbia is Kosovo's mother. No such thing was ever said or implied. The case is closed. In fact there was never a case to begin with.
The case for Pacolli to be the President of Kosovo:
In fact a case can be made that Pacolli is exactly what Kosovo needs right now.First, he is simply the most credible person in the international scene. On his own accord and with his own resources he has in fact done more to promote the Independence of Kosovo than the government itself.He claims that as a result of his direct lobbying 25 countries recognized the independence of Kosovo. Whether 25 is the right number is perhaps a matter of some debate, but there appears to be strong evidence he was more effective in his lobbying effort than the government itself. I would argue the Kosovo government has proved itself to be very weak in this area without any ability to organize initiatives on his own. They have mostly relegated themselves to meeting world ambassadors at UN gatherings with little to show for it.
Second, Pacolli appears to have on his network of connection an incredible number of world leaders outside of Europe. This is what Kosovo needs: a chance to make a case to these countries. The Kosovo government in fact has never made a case to leaders of these countries. I heard Pacolli recently say that most of the leaders of these small countries he convinced to recognize Kosovo told him that they have never received a request from Kosovo for recognition.It's not unheard of for diplomatic cables to get lost, especially those coming from frankly unimportant countries such as Kosovo.
It's very important for Kosovo to have at least 100 countries recognize it over the next two years ( 25 more) so as to prevent Serbia from claiming that most countries do not recognize Kosovo. Right now Serbia FM Vuk Jeremic keeps going around the world asking countries to not recognize Kosovo because " most have not recognized it". Some countries feel comfort in wanting to be with the majority. Serbia should be defeated on this last claim, and I believe Pacolli can be very instrumental in this respect. In normal circumstances I would oppose a billionaire to become a leader of any country, but Pacolli fits the bill for the current needs of Kosovo.He has the wherewithal to present Kosovo's case in Capitals outside of Europe. Kosovo has been recognized by Europe, now the challenge is beyond it in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Pacolli, at the very least, will give Vuk Jeremic of Serbia a run for his money....literally!
Rumblings in Europe:
There appears to be some rumblings in Europe about Pacolli becoming the President of Kosovo. Newspapers in Germany and Switzerland have published similar allegation against him as the Koha Group ( why do they care if Kosovo's president is pro Russian anyway?). They appear to think he will take Kosovo's issue beyond their capitals. They are used to other Kosovo leaders kneeling in front of them and they get the sense he won't do that easily. Good news is he appears to have gotten the go ahead from US embassy in Kosovo, a must for any major decision in Kosovo.
Give him a chance
The bottom line here is the allegation against Pacolli are scandalous and without any merit whatsoever. Koha Group, who used to be a credible media company, should be ashamed of itself for peddling Veton Surroi's hate and jealousy. Pacolli has proven himself in being very successful in the business world, something no other leader in Kosovo has done. He is not a man of empty words- he has actually proved that he can use his network of connections around the world to the benefit of Kosovo. Pacolli has what it takes to push Kosovo's agenda to the next level and we should all give him a chance.