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News 14 Oct 13

Kosovo Drops Fees for South Serbia Albanians

The Kosovo government said it will no longer ask ethnic Albanians from Serbia’s southern Presevo Valley to pay insurance fees to take their cars across the border.

BIRN Pristina

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci on Friday approved the decision, which will come into force on October 21, as the Kosovo government continues to woo ethnic Albanians from southern Serbia.

Drivers who can prove they are ethnic Albanians from the Presevo Valley will no longer have to pay the car insurance fees, which ranged from 20 to 120 euro depending on how long they stayed in Kosovo.

“The compensation [for the loss of revenue] will be made by the Kosovo government, while the ministry of finance will be engaged in implementing this decision,” Thaci said.

The move follows a meeting held by Thaci with Albanian political representatives from the Serbian towns of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja on Wednesday.

Albanian leaders in southern Serbia have often called on Pristina to help them win more rights.

“There is no reason for us, as a minority in the Presevo Valley, to have less rights than the Serbs who live in Kosovo,” Riza Halimi, the only ethnic Albanian MP in the Serbian parliament, said earlier this year.

Kosovo Serbs and other communities have some special rights to representation in state institutions. These are expected to increase with the establishment of the Association of Serbian Municipalities under the Pristina-Belgrade deal to normalise relations.

Thaci encouraged the Serbian Albanians to seek progress by “continuing  dialogue with the government in Belgrade”.

South Serbia is home to 50,000 or so Albanians. In 2001, the region saw an armed conflict between the security forces and Albanian rebels, which ended with the help of the international community and NATO.

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