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news 07 Dec 12

Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade Solve Border Deal Row

Serb from northern Kosovo and Belgrade officials have patched up differences over the recent controversial deal on management of the border.

Bojana Barlovac BIRN Belgrade

Krstimir Pantic, mayor of the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica, said that "all the demands of Serbs from northern Kosovo have been met."

According to the deal local Serbs made with Belgrade on Thursday, the management of four border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia "will be established by the year's end," and those crossings will be "status-neutral" - meaning that no country will fly its flag or display state symbols.

It was also confirmed that the agreement would be suspended if Kosovo Albanian authorities "started abusing it. 

"I am certain that there will be no further misunderstandings between the government of Serbia and Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija," Pantic said.

The crossed wires arose after Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci agreed in Brussels on Tuesday to start implementing a deal reached previously on integrated border management, IBM.

The agreement was achieved in the context of the EU-led dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.

Under the terms of the IBM agreement, Kosovo and Serbian customs and police officers are set to stand under one roof.

Locals in Serb-run northern Kosovo argue that the deal implies recognition of Kosovo’s independence, which Kosovo declared in 2008, and have been blocking the border crossing of Jarinje over the past few days.

Dacic said that there was no reason for Serbs to continue their blockade of the crossing.

"We have done everything as we agreed, and the greatest guarantee for Serbs is the guarantee of the state of Serbia, through the decision of the state, that it will suspend the implementation of the agreement if there is any deviation from it," Dacic said on Thursday evening. 

Pantic explained that councilors of four Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo will meet on Friday for a joint session and decide on their next steps. 

The mayor said that he was an optimist when it came to the decision to end the protest, and added that he would recommend to the councilors to accept the government's position and its guarantees, noting also that they also received "written guarantees" - in the shape of a government conclusion adopted today in Belgrade.

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