Outsider candidate Përparim Rama disrupted the political scene in Kosovo* by winning the mayoral election in Prishtina with a platform focused on environmental issues and a people-centered makeover of the capital city. After the victory, he promised to subsidize the replacement of heating furnaces in households, especially the poorer ones.
The opposition Democratic League of Kosovo* (LDK) struck gold when it convinced Përparim Rama to be its candidate for the mayoral election in Prishtina. The architect arrived from London, where he moved in 1992, without any experience in politics, but he managed to beat Arben Vitia from Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s Vetëvendosje – LVV in the second round by a margin of just 1,700 votes, or 51% to 49%.
Rama’s green agenda may have been the tipping point, confirming an emerging trend in the Balkans. Tomislav Tomašević, who was an environmental activist for most of his life, became the mayor of Croatia’s capital Zagreb this year with a record number of votes. His green left list won 23 out of 47 seats in the local assembly.
Candidates with environmentalist agendas are gaining ground in major cities in Southeastern Europe
Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj and the city administration are working on a number of green projects including sustainable mobility. Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković, who came to power in 2012, leans on sustainable development, which made it the 2016 European Green Capital.
Ways to tackle deadly air pollution and traffic congestion were the central factors in the campaign for the local election in Skopje in October. Opposition candidate Danela Arsovska managed to defeat incumbent Mayor Petre Shilegov.
Prishtina to add four trees per inhabitant
Citizens opted for Përparim Rama to lead Prishtina, which was known as the ruling party’s stronghold. After his victory, the mayor-elect told Klan Kosova that the local authority would offer households subsidies to switch heating boilers and furnaces to cleaner sources.
Rama reiterated 800,000 trees would be planted during his four-year mandate, or four per inhabitant! His plan includes creating 250 hectares of green spaces and establishing green corridors for pedestrians and users of bicycles and other alternative ways of transportation.
Prishtina will work on cleaner heating sources and energy efficiency measures for households, according to Përparim Rama
The city is struggling with extreme air pollution. Rama said a significant number of families are using coal for heating and that it must change. He promised the city government would prioritize support for poor households in the endeavor. A package of subsidies will be rolled out for energy efficiency measures in houses and apartments as well, he said.
In the election program, Përparim Rama pointed out that only half of the district heating capacity of the nearby lignite-fired power plant Kosova B is being used. He vowed to double Prishtina’s heating utility Termokos to 280 MW. A major large solar thermal project is under development. The mayor-elect said at least 20% of hot water demand in public buildings would be covered with renewable energy.
Parking infrastructure including electric vehicles
Kosovo* depends on coal for 94.9% of its domestic electricity production, which makes it second in the world in the category. It even means using electric cars does more harm than good in terms of carbon savings.
Still, Përparim Rama promised to make it obligatory for new buildings and those undergoing major renovation to include at least one charging point for electric vehicles for every ten parking spaces. The next mayor said big parking lots would be built at six locations just outside of the central part of Prishtina to give pedestrians the priority in the zone, followed by public transportation and alternative transportation.
He also launched ideas for the replacement of inefficient public lighting and the installation of smart bus stops powered by solar panels. Rama said the urban planning documentation would be finished in nine months.