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news 17 Oct 17

Deal on Unifying Kosovo Justice System Takes Effect

The EU confirmed that on Tuesday the Kosovo-Serbia agreement on unifying the justice system in Kosovo is due to come into force.

Die Morina, Labinot Leposhtica
Court in North Mitrovica in Kosovo | Photo: BIRN

Maja Kocijancic, the spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, told BIRN on Monday that a landmark agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, unifying the justice system in Kosovo, will come into force on Tuesday.

“As agreed between the Presidents of Serbia and Kosovo on 31 August 2017 in the framework of the EU facilitated Dialogue, the agreement on justice is expected to enter into force tomorrow,” Kocijancic said.

“All the steps have been completed for the integration of the Kosovo Serb judicial personnel into the Kosovo judiciary and both sides have met their obligations,” she added.

The agreement on integrating the justice system in the Serb-run north of Kosovo with the system in Kosovo generally was signed between Kosovo and Serbia on February 10, 2015 in Brussels.

Set for implementation on October 17, the relevant institutions in Kosovo say everything is ready. Kosovo Judicial Council chair Nehat Idrizi says that all preparations have been made.

"The recruitment procedure of judges has been completed, so only their decree [appointing them] is expected. The procedure has also been completed on the recruitment of administrative staff," Idrizi told BIRN on Monday.

Idrizi also said that, besides the recruitment of judges and support staff, there is an open vacancy for the head of the court.

"Work on this is expected to start on the twenty-third of this month,” he said, adding that no security issues are expected.

 “Everything is going as we planned... Finally, ten years after independence was declared, we will have a unified justice system in the Republic of Kosovo,” the Minister of Justice, Abelard Tahiri, told BIRN.

The Prosecution in the divided northern town of Mitrovica is also ready to start implementation of the deal. “The offices are furnished and everything is ready to start. It is foreseen that nine Serbian prosecutors and 32 support staff will come," the head of the Prosecution in Mitrovica, Shqyri Syla, told BIRN.

The agreement foresees the implementation of Kosovo laws and a unitary justice system over the whole of the country, including the northern, Serb-run, part.

The agreement featured during a meeting between Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic with Mogherini in Brussels, where both leaders promised to implement the deal by October.

The former province of Serbia broke away from Serbia in the late 1990s and formally declared its independence in 2008. However, minority Serbs, concentrated in the north on the border with Serbia, have long resisted integration into the independent state.

Serbia has vowed never to recognise Kosovo as an independent state - but has agreed to take part in an EU-led process on "normalising" relations.

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