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News 11 Sep 17

New Kosovo PM to Revise Montenegro Border Deal

Shortly after being elected as Kosovo's Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj said his government would take a fresh look at the controversial border agreement with Montenegro – whose adoption MPs have postponed repeatedly.

BIRN
Pristina, Belgrade
Haradinaj stands in Kosovo parliament on September 9, when he was elected as a new Prime Minister. Photo: Beta

Speaking on Voice of America on Sunday, Kosovo's new Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, said he would take a fresh look at the controversial border deal with Montenegro signed in 2015.

He said it wrongly demarcated the border between Kosovo and Montenegro, placing it several miles inside Kosovo below the peak of Mt Cakor.

“The current version of demarcation is wrong ... so we will correct it,” Haradinaj told Voice of America.

“Fortunately Montenegro is a neighbouring state and we welcome its progress, especially its NATO membership, which is our goal too, so I don't see any difficulties on this issue.

“We will find a quick solution to the current situation but I will not be precise now about which steps we will undertake, but a quick solution will be found in order to not delay visa liberalisation,” Haradinaj added.

The EU has demanded resolution to the border issue with Montenegro as precondition for Kosovo obtaining visa-free access to the EU's passport-free zone.

The mountainous region is the subject of a long-standing border dispute between Kosovo and Montenegro.

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

The deal was set to be put to a vote in parliament last September but ratification was postponed following violent clashes over the issue. Some opposition and ruling party MPs claimed the deal would deprive 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.

To resolve the dispute, Kosovo formed an expert commission to map Kosovo’s territory. In February this year, it concluded that Kosovo had not lost any territory when it signed the agreement.

In a joint statement on Monday, the EU Office in Kosovo, EULEX and Heads of EU Missions urged Kosovo not to delay the issue further.

“It is essential that Kosovo delivers on the remaining visa liberalisation conditions by moving forward on the border demarcation agreement with Montenegro, and by taking action against corruption and organised crime,” they said.

Haradinaj was elected Prime Minister of Kosovo by a narrow majority – with 61 of the 120 votes in parliament on Saturday, after a political deadlock that had persisted since inconclusive general elections on June 11.

His first meeting as a Prime Minister was with US Ambassador Greg Delawie. In a statement issued on Monday, the US embassy welcomed the constitution of the Kosovo Assembly and the formation of the new government.

“The United States continues to support Kosovo on its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration, strengthening the rule of law, improving economic development, and normalizing regional relations,” the embassy wrote.

Both Haradinaj’s party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, and a junior partner in the coalition, Fatmir Limaj's NISMA, previously fiercely opposed the border deal with Montenegro.

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