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news 07 Nov 17

Montenegro Snubs Kosovo's Talk of Arbitration Over Border

While Kosovo mulls sending the disputed border agreement with Montenegro to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Montenegro shows no sign of agreeing to such a solution. 

Die Morina
The regular meeting of the Government of Kosovo | Photo: Kosovo Government

Kosovo's government is considering taking the issue of border demarcation with Montenegro to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, if Montenegro continues to refuse to review the agreement, which its parliament already ratified.

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj stated over the weekend that the issue may be submitted to the Court, although analysts say the question is further complicated by the fact that any such initiative needs to be agreed first with Montenegro.

Pristina-based political analyst Behlul Beqaj says it is difficult imagining any agreement with Montenegro on that.

“They are very decisive when it comes to the border issue, meaning they don’t want any more maneuvers about it,” Beqaj told BIRN.

Beqaj says the issue has been used by Haradinaj as a political cause, creating extra confusion. “PM Haradinaj should take responsibility for all the confusion he has created, by being aware conscious that there were no arguments for all those conclusions he made publicly. It seems like his purpose was exactly this, to go to arbitration,” Beqaj said.

He doubted also whether Kosovo could even initiate such a process, as many international organizations did not yet accept Kosovo as a state, owing to the dispute over its independence with former ruler Serbia.

“There should be a national consensus on border demarcation with Montenegro,” the director at the Democracy for Development Institute, Shpend Emini, told BIRN on Monday.

He added that the government must exhausts all means, which included proper dialogue with the opposition in the Kosovo parliament.

“Sending demarcation to arbitration may end up creating yet more challenges for Kosovo, taking into account that its decisions are final,” Emini said.

However, international law professor Afrim Hoti said arbitation was the best route. “As a country we can send the issue a arbitration, because it is a pre-judicial method of solving disagreements and two countries can so avoid complicated judicial processes, expenses ... and so on,” Hoti told BIRN.

Montenegro thus far appears totally uninterested. Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic said on Monday that for Podgorica, border demarcation with Kosovo remains "a done deal."

“As I already said before, Montenegro has never revoked or cancelled an international treaty  its parliament alreadfy ratified, and this will not happen now, either. We are, of course, patiently awaiting possible positive developments of events in Kosovo, since this is their internal issue," Darmanovic said.

Speaking about eventual international arbitration, Darmanovic said that would require the consent of both sides. "But we have finished the job [already]," he concluded .

The head of a new state commission in Kosovo set up to review the work of the previous one on the border, Shpejtim Bulliqi, on Sunday said that they had collected evidence that showed Kosovo had lost territory under the current version of demarcation.

The two former Yugoslav republics signed the demarcation agreement in 2015. However, Kosovo's parliament has yet to ratify it.

The deal was set to be put to a vote in Kosovo's parliament last September 2016 but ratification was postponed following violent clashes. Opposition members, including the current Prime Minister, Haradinaj, claimed the deal would deprive Kosovo of 8,000 hectares of land.

The EU says it cannot proceed with visa liberalisation for Kosovo - an important issue for the country - until the border issue with Montenegro is laid to rest.

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