By Taulant Osmani*-President Hashim Thaci has engaged his former critic William Walker, a veteran US diplomat who was the head of the OSCE’s Kosovo mission during wartime, on a contract worth 35,000 euros.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and the Walker Foundation, a body set up by William Walker, the wartime head of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission, have signed a contract worth 35,000 euros, which will be funded by the state budget, BIRN has learned.
The five-month agreement for consultancy services between the Office of the President of Kosovo and the Walker Foundation, which BIRN has seen, started in August 2020 and is worth 7,000 euros per month, a bill footed by the Kosovo taxpayer.
The procedure did not involve a public procurement process
The foundation is tasked with providing expertise on Kosovo’s international image, its diplomatic efforts and its Euro-Atlantic integration.
The contract states that “the service provider… will provide advanced expertise in matters that include, but are not limited to, the following: Kosovo’s internal and external representation, expansion and strengthening of Kosovo’s relations with other states, strengthening the democratic functioning of institutions of the Republic of Kosovo, and advancing economic initiatives and the integration of Kosovo in Euro-Atlantic structures”.
The agreement is set to expire in December 2020, with the option to extend for another six months.
Strict confidentiality agreements are also contained within the contract. “During the contract and after its expiry, the service provider is not allowed to disclose confidential information regarding work duties, the subject of this contract, or activities of the Office of the President of Kosovo, without a written approval from the Cabinet of the President,” it states.
When contacted by BIRN, the Walker Foundation declined to further comment on the services it is providing to President Thaci.
“The conditions of the contract oblige us to keep this information confidential,” said Hasan Salihu, an executive director at the foundation.
However, Salihu did say that Walker is often directly involved in the consultancy provided by the foundation.
“Usually, all the reports, advice and other professional activities are prepared by Ambassador William Walker,” he said.
Walker has previously had a fractured relationship with Thaci. In 2010, he accused Thaci of profiting from corruption during his tenure as prime minister, and publicly backed the opposition Vetevendosje party.
In an interview with RTV Dukagjini in 2017, Walker said that Thaci “is a handsome man, but I do not admire him – the only thing Thaci knows how to do is to keep the internationals happy”.
Walker often visits Kosovo in January to commemorate the Recak/Racak massacre, which he declared a crime against humanity in 1999 after visiting the scene of the killings the following day.
After the commemoration this year, he met Thaci and publicly thanked and shook hands with the president, while Thaci stated that Walker’s criticism was always meant with good intentions.
“Certainly Ambassador Walker has been a critic of those of us who are in politics, but his criticisms have always been welcome, as it improved us, even me personally,” Thaci said.
“Therefore, even when he criticised us, we loved him, respected and valued his work and commitment for the people and the state of Kosovo,” he added.
*Caption: The OSCE’s former Kosovo mission chief, William Walker, receives a symbolic ‘golden key’ to Kosovo from President Hashim Thaci at a ceremony in Pristina in November 1999. Photo: EPA-EFE/ANTONIO BAT.*BalkanInsight