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News 16 Jan 13

Kosovo-Serbia Border Talks in Stalemate

EU-led talks between Belgrade and Pristina ended on Tuesday without much progress on a recent border management deal.

Marija Ristic BIRN Belgrade

Talks on implementing the "Integrated Border Management Agreement" and preparing for the next round of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia on January 17 ended inconclusively on Tuesday.

Following a meeting of the two working groups, led by Serbia's Dejan Pavicevic and his Kosovo counterpart, Edita Tahira, neither side issued a statement.

“The meeting will continue tomorrow,” Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson of the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, explained.

One EU senior officer told Balkan Insight that the talks had ended in near-deadlock, as both sides still had different ideas about the IBM deal.

Prime Ministers Hashim Thaci and Ivica Dacic agreed to implement the border deal, concluded at the end of 2011, on December 4, 2012.

On December 10, 2012, Kosovo and Serbia started to implement the deal at the crossing points in Merdare and Jarinje, and from December 31 at the crossing points of Brnjak and Dheu i Bardhe.

The main point of the deal is that customs officials from both sides operate under one roof. But disagreements continue.

Belgrade insists that the agreement permits excise goods up to 3.5 tons, and all non-excise goods intended for Serb-run northern Kosovo, to enter Kosovo from Serbia duty-free.

The authorities in Pristina claim the opposite, saying that taxes must be paid on all incoming goods.

Locals in Serb-run northern Kosovo strongly oppose the idea of having to pay customs on goods coming from Serbia.

Some meanwhile have complained that the head of the Serbian working group in the talks has not been sufficiently aggressive in defending their interests.

Kosovo Serb leaders in an open letter on Tuesday said that “the way that Pavicevic is leading the customs negotiations is not a good way”.

In the open letter to the Serbian government, they asked to be included in the Serbian VAT system, rejecting the possibility of paying customs on the border crossings at Jarinje and Brnjak.

The EU-led dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia was launched in March 2011 in order to normalize relations between the parties, both of which seek European integration.

Serbia says it will never recognise the independence of Kosovo, proclaimed in 2008, but is open to talks on improving people's lives on both sides of the border.

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