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news 31 Aug 16

Kosovo Urged to Send Border Deal to Arbitration

Haki Abazi, from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, believes the best solution to the Kosovo- Montenegro border demarcation issue could lie in international arbitration.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina
Kosovo Parliament | Photo: BIRN

Haki Abazi, program director for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund for the Western Balkans, told BIRN that the best way to avert the tensions that have arisen over the demarcation agreement with Montenegro could be international arbitration.

According to Abazi, a good example of this was the case of Slovenia and Croatia, which had similar border troubles.

“When the agreement on [border] demarcation was sent to the Croatian parliament for ratification, it was not accepted and so both prime ministers stepped back and agreed that the issue should go on international arbitration," he recalled.

“This is a well-known international mechanism to eliminate the raising of tensions and a decay in relations between two countries," Abazi noted.

“The same should be applied to the demarcation issue here. Kosovo has entered into an unnecessary conflict,” he added.

 

According to Abazi, Kosovo politicians have failed to realise that “by taking this issue to this level of tension, they are destroying a healthy relationship with Montenegro.”

The EU representative in Pristina, Samuel Zbogar, meanwhile told the program “Jeta ne Kosove” that although Croatia and Slovenia joined the EU before resolving their border issues, the EU’s stand now is that the countries should solve such disputes earlier on.

“It gets much more complicated later on," he said. “That’s why ... we have to use all the instruments that we have to encourage countries to solve these open border issues".

Zbogar recalled that the issue had arisen in the context of EU moves to end visa requirements on Kosovo citizens.

"Visa liberalisation came along and we said - why we don’t encourage Kosovo to sort the issue with Montenegro during visa liberalisation process?” Zbogar said.

He recalled that when the EU and Kosovo established the so-called roadmap leading towards visa-free travel for Kosovars in 2012, “there were 95 recommendations and conditions and one was an agreement with Montenegro on marking the border”.

Kosovo's parliament is due to vote to ratify the agreement with Montenegro on September 1 after months of protests led by the opposition Vetevendosje party. It has called for fresh protest against the vote.

Kosovo and Montenegro signed the border deal in August 2015, which Montenegro ratified later that year.

But in Kosovo, some opposition and ruling party MPs claim it deprives Kosovo of 8,000 hectares of land.

The row has caused the biggest political crisis in Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Vetevendosje MPs have been setting off tear gas in parliament ever since the agreement was signed in October 2015.

Disclosure: Rockefeller Brothers Fund is one of BIRN's donors.

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