Serbia and Kosovo reached a ‘free movement agreement’ to ease tensions

Serbian and Kosovar authorities must recognize each other’s identity cards. Serbia and Kosovo concluded, on Saturday 27 August, “an agreement on freedom of movement” between the two countries, after renewed tension due to the new border and administrative rules imposed by Pristina, announced the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.

This agreement did not, however, resolve the issue of vehicle registration plates for Kosovo Serbs, whose change to Kosovar plates demanded by Pristina sparked a new outbreak of violence in July.

Also read: Kosovo has postponed the entry into force of new border rules with Serbia following tensions

After negotiations led by the European Union (EU), Pristina agreed not to introduce 1er September, as he intended, residence permits for people entering Kosovo with a Serbian identity card, Borrell explained to Twittermake sure there is “Received guarantees” from Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti.

In return, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, agreed to abolish the residence permit imposed by Belgrade on visitors holding a Kosovar identity card to enter Serbia.

“Ensuring peace and stability in the territory of Kosovo”

The announcement of Mr. Borrell was then received by the head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Petar Petkovic. With this agreement, “We managed to ensure peace and stability in the territory of Kosovo and to preserve the Serbian identity card for the Serbian people” lives in Kosovo “and therefore also the presence of the State of Serbia in this territory”mr. Petkovic said in a statement.

Belgrade has never recognized the independence the former majority Albanian province proclaimed in 2008, a decade after a bloody war that left 13,000 people dead, mostly Kosovar Albanian.

Since then, the region has been the scene of episodic frictions. The approximately 120,000 Kosovo Serbs, a third of whom live in the north of the territory, do not recognize Pristina’s authority, remaining loyal to Belgrade.

In Pristina, the Kosovar Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, welcomed the conclusion of an agreement based on “retaliation”. “Solutions to standardization must include reciprocity, because good neighborly relations require it”he wrote on Facebook.

To accept this compromise, Serbia demanded that an explanatory notice be placed at the border crossings, which Belgrade described as “administrative channels”. The text of this announcement will say that this step has been decided “only for practical reasons” and that he “cannot shall not be considered as recognition of the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo”according to Petkovic.

Also read Article reserved for our subscribers Albin Kurti: “When will Serbia be ready to recognize Kosovo? »

The problem with the plates is not solved

On the other hand, no compromise was found on Saturday regarding the size of Kosovo’s license plates, Josep Borrell regretted. In addition to the residence permit imposed on its borders, Pristina also decided in July to require Kosovo Serbs to replace Serbian license plates on their vehicles with Republic of Kosovo license plates.

When the measures were announced, Serbs in northern Kosovo erected barricades near border crossings and blocked traffic. Under pressure from the United States, Pristina postponed their implementation until 1er September.

“The work is not finished, some issues are still pending. I hope that the two leaders will continue to show pragmatism and a constructive spirit to solve the problem of the plates”by Joseph Borrell.

Without agreement on license plates, Kosovo Serbs have, from 1er September, a period of two months to replace their plates, according to the decision of Pristina.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, however, remains negative about the possibility of reaching an agreement on this file. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, he explained that the dispute over identity cards is a “little problem” and that of the plates is “more complicated”. “The crisis continues though, it’s getting worse”he warned.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization warned in mid-August that its peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) “Ready to intervene when stability is threatened” and to strengthen its workers if necessary, to “restore freedom of movement” when there are blockades and new violence.

Also read: Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo: NATO calls for “restraint” and says it is ready to intervene

The World with AFP

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