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News 07 Jul 16

Border Deal Remains Stuck in Kosovo Parliament

Despite repeated calls for Kosovo's government and parliament to speedily ratify the controversial border with Montenegro, neither institution seems in any hurry to do so.

Erjone Popova, Ervin Qafmolla
BIRN
Pristina
Kosovo assembly chairman Kadri Veseli told MPs to not jump into premature conclusions on the border demarcation with Montenegro. Photo: BIRN

After the EU Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee voted in favour of visa liberalisation for Kosovo on Thursday, Kosovo's own institutions continue to delay addressing the border demarcation deal with Montenegro, which is a condition for the visa agreement with the EU to take effect.

Following the vote in the EU Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa and Foreign Minister Bekim Collaku hailed the development, and said that it was now up to Kosovo to fulfil the remaining conditions for visa liberalisation to be implemented.

However, the Kosovo assembly, which must ratify the border agreement, has yet to act despite repeated calls from senior EU and Kosovo officials.

The case was not included at Thursday’s assembly session, despite demands from both President Hashim Thaci and European Parliament rapporteur Tanja Fajon.

Two weeks ago, Thaci said Kosovo needed to ratify the agreement or hopes of visa liberalisation could be jeopardised. Fajon issued a similar call on Wednesday.

“I sincerely hope the Kosovo parliament ratifies this agreement as soon as possible and before the summer break, as this will allow me to proceed ... to assure full support… for my recommendation to abolish visas for Kosovo,” Fajon said.

The EU recommended visa liberalisation for Kosovo in May, but on condition that Kosovo step up efforts to tackle organised crime and corruption and ratifies the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro, signed on August 26, 2105, between the two countries.

But while police have since made several high-profile arrests, the government has failed to present a draft law on the border agreement with Montenegro to parliament.

At Thursday’s assembly session, Shpejtim Bulliqi, an MP from the ruling Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, demanded an open debate on the border agreement to ensure greater transparency.

He blamed the legislators on a special committee for the demarcation agreement for failing to properly inform people living in border areas that might be affected.

“Where are they? Why are they hiding? They should be open to the public and go into the fields and talk to the residents of Rugove [the border area near Montenegro],” Bulliqi said.

The same legislator initiated an impromptu collection of signatures demanding a dedicated session on the agreement in the following days.

Forty signatures by MPs are necessary for an issue to be brought to a debate in the assembly, and although the results were not made public, BIRN witnessed several dozen MPs signing the request.

The controversial deal is bitterly contested by Kosovo opposition parties and by residents of regions potentially affected by the new suggested border. They claim it robs Kosovo of several thousand hectares of land.

Visar Ymeri, leader of the opposition Vetevendosje [Self-Determination] party, said the ruling elite in Kosovo was to blame for the institutional impasse on the border agreement.

“You are not even allowing us to discuss the matter. You don’t know what we think about this [demarcation agreement], or what our decision would be,” Kadri Veseli, chairman of the assembly, told MPs.

The assembly now has only a few weeks left to discuss and ratify the agreement with Montenegro, before legislators take their yearly leave in August.

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