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news 04 Dec 17

Kosovo Commission Calls Montenegro Border Deal Damaging

The Kosovo government's new commission on the border deal with Montenegro has attacked the agreement, saying it endorsed a border that did not follow Kosovo's previous border, when it was a province of Yugoslavia.

Perparim Isufi
BIRN
Pristina
The State Commission on Demarcation reporting at Kosovo's Government meeting on Monday | Photo: BIRN

Kosovo's government on Monday backed a report by a new commission tasked with re- assessing the controversial border deal with Montenegro – which has called the deal damaging to Kosovo's national interests.

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, a fierce critic of the border deal in opposition, wasted no time on his first day in office before firing the existing State Commission on Demarcation and appointing another team, in charge of finding a solution to the deadlock.

Reporting to the government on Monday, the head of the new commission, Shpejtim Bulliqi, said the deal was indeed damaging to Kosovo.

“Our commission unanimously concluded that border line with Montenegro is not in line with the former Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo boundary line,” Bulliqi said, referring to the old internal boundaries of the Yugoslav federation.

A MP from the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, which led the last government, Bulliqi has long maintained that the old commission, formerly headed by Murat Meha, made key errors in the agreement with Montenegro, which cost Kosovo over 8,200 hectares of land.

He said that his commission had faced “political and media pressure” over the work assigned to it three months ago.

The commission report also reflected the different views that Haradinaj’s cabinet have on this topic, however.

Deputy Prime Minister Enver Hoxhaj, who comes from the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, a party in government that supports the deal, said he was not convinced with Bulliqi’s findings.

“I am hearing general assessments but not any concrete fact. You were not concrete. When topics are complex, commissions are obliged to simplify them. I have the impression that you have complicated it [demarcation] even more,” Hoxhaj said.

President Hashim Thaçi, who was one of signatories to the agreement as Foreign Minister in 2015, meanwhile invited MPs to ratify it.

Thaçi said eventual ratification of the deal would help end the “isolation of Kosovo citizens”, as the European Union has set ratification of the agreement as the main condition before it will grant Kosovo nationals visa-free access to the passport-free Schengen area.

“Now is the time for the Kosovo Assembly to take its decision in the interest of Kosovo citizens, who are awaiting visa liberalization with unprecedented patience,” Thaçi said.

Following numerous opposition protests in Pristina, the US State Department in December 2015 said that, following its own review of maps from the 1940s to the present, it believed the delineated border closely aligned with the border as defined by the former Yugoslav state's 1974 constitution.

The European Parliament has meanwhile warned that it will not recommend abolition of visa requirements for Kosovars wanting to the travel into the EU until Kosovo has ratified a border agreement with Montenegro.

The deal was set to be put to a vote in parliament on September 1 2015, but, amid fierce opposition protests outside the building, former Prime Minister Isa Mustafa withdrew it from the agenda.

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