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news 10 May 17

Kosovars Grow Weary of Border Deal Saga

As government readies for a decision on whether to send the Montenegrin border agreement to parliament, locals are tiring of the whole issue.

Die Morina
The border between Kosovo and Montenegro. Photo: BIRN

Locals in the Kosovo capital Pristina are divided over whether the country’s parliament should ratify the controversial border agreement with Montenegro, which opposition parties say will rob Kosovo of land.

However, most doubt adoption of the agreement will singlehandedly lead to the EU lifting visa requirements.

“Different commissions should work on this issue, which people trust and are not be affected by politics. But I can’t say if the agreement should be adopted or not,” 50-year-old Pristina inhabitant Vaxhid Xhelili told BIRN.

Kosovars who spoke to BIRN said the agreement signed in August 2015 in Brussels had taken up much time already, and some think the business needs to be finished.

The European Union has put ratification of the border agreement with Montenegro at the top of its conditions for visa liberalisation.

Xhevdet Jashari, aged 51, said it was time for parliament to pass the agreement but added: “I do not think that this will bring about visa liberalisation. The government is the only one to blame for this.”

“This process should be finished because, if we want to be European citizens, borders are not important,” he added.

The mountain region – where nothing can be seen for miles except meadows and a few katuns, summer mountain huts used by shepherds - is the subject of long-standing border dispute between Kosovo and Montenegro.

While the two countries that both were once part of Yugoslavia signed the demarcation agreement in 2015, the Kosovo parliament has yet to ratify it.

The agreement, referring to the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution and to maps from 1974, sets the border several miles below the peak in the direction of Kosovo.

The agreement has caused violent clashes in Kosovo, with some opposition and ruling party MPs claiming it deprives Kosovo of 8,000 hectares of land.

They claim the true border between Kosovo and Montenegro lies on Zljepska Tower, on top of the Cakor peak.

An expert commission appointed to map Kosovo’s territory has concluded in February that it lost no territory when it signed an agreement on the demarcation of its borders with Montenegro.

Zana Mehmeti, 27, said: “The MPs should vote on demarcation for the sake of visa liberalisation”.

Shefki Beqiri, aged 70, took the opposite line, however. “The demarcation deal should not be voted through,” he said.

“But those who signed it must deal with it now because this process took a long time already,” he added.

The government of Isa Mustafa has planned a meeting on Wednesday to decide on sending the border agreement to parliament.

This meeting will follow a vote in parliament on a motion of no- confidence in the government filed by the opposition.

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