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News 01 Apr 13

Kosovo and Serbia to Set Permanent Border Crossings

Pristina and Belgrade have been looking at places to establish permanent border crossing points, but their continued dialogue has sparked protests by Albanians in northern Kosovo.

Edona Peci
BIRN
Pristina

Kosovo’s deputy prime minister Edita Tahiri, alongside Serbian, European Union and EU rule of law mission officials, visited six proposed border crossing points with Serbia last week, the Pristina government announced in a press release on Sunday.

The joint visits were designed to “identify and confirm locations” at places where permanent Integrated Border Management, IBM crossing points between Kosovo and Serbia are to be established.

Pristina and Belgrade started to implement their IBM agreement at the beginning of December last year, after both prime ministers had agreed on technicalities during dialogue led by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Under the terms of the agreement, Kosovo and Serbian customs and police officers are based under one roof and are expected to continue working together at permanent border-crossing premises.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic, are due to meet again on April 2 in Brussels with the intention of finalising an agreement on the Serb-run northern part of Kosovo.

Since the end of the conflict in the late 1990s, the north of Mitrovica has been beyond the Kosovo government’s control while Serbia has continued to finance local security, judicial, health and educational institutions.

The main differences between the two sides are about the powers that a proposed Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo will have.

According to the plan, 10 Serbian municipalities - four in Serb-run northern Kosovo and six from the rest of Kosovo - will transfer their responsibilities to the Association, an EU diplomat told BIRN last month.

The plan is in line with EU and Kosovo demands that Serbia dismantle its so-called "parallel" structures in the north, and with Serbian demands for broad autonomy to be offered to all Serb-populated areas in Kosovo.

But while Belgrade insists on executive powers for the Association, Pristina doesn’t want it to have any legislative or executive role.

Meanwhile thousands of protesters led by the nationalist Self-Determination Movement opposition party rallied in Mitrovica on Saturday against the continuation of the dialogue with Belgrade.

“No deals on sovereignty” and “Long live united Mitrovica” said banners carried by the protesters.

“The integration of the north will be achieved by stopping the dialogue with Serbia immediately… and by not allowing Serbian goods to enter Kosovo,” said Albin Kurti, head of the Self-Determination Movement.

Kurti announced that further protests would be held in Pristina if the planned meeting between Thaci and Dacic takes place on Tuesday.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, although Belgrade steadfastly refuses to recognise it.

Both sides have been involved in EU-mediated dialogue aimed at normalising relations since March 2011.

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