Serbia and Kosovo reach 'free movement agreement'

Serbia and Kosovo conclude “free movement agreement”

US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar and EU Special Envoy Miroslav Lajcak attend a meeting with Serbian political leaders.

Serbia and Kosovo on Saturday reached “an agreement on freedom of movement” between the two countries, after renewed tensions sparked by new border and administrative rules imposed by Pristina, announced the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell.

However, this agreement does not resolve the issue of Kosovo Serb car license plates, whose change to Kosovar plates demanded by Pristina provoked a new outburst of anger in July.

Following EU-led negotiations, Pristina agrees not to introduce on September 1, as it intended, residence permits for people entering Kosovo with an ID card. #x27;Serbian identity, said Borrell on Twitter, claiming to have received guarantees from Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

In exchange, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic agreed to remove the residence permit that Belgrade imposed on visitors with Kosovo ID cards to enter Serbia.

From now on, the Serbian and Kosovar authorities should therefore recognize each other's identity cards.

Mr Borrell's announcement was immediately welcomed by the head of the office of the Serbian Government for Kosovo, Petar Petkovic.

With this agreement, we managed to ensure peace and stability on the territory of Kosovo and to preserve Serbian identity cards for Serbs living in Kosovo and thus also the presence of the State of Serbia on this territory, Petkovic said in a statement.

Head of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo Peter Petkovic (left) in Brussels after a meeting between Belgrade and Pristina (archives)

Belgrade never recognized the independence proclaimed by his former Albanian-majority province in 2008, a decade after a bloody war that claimed 13,000 lives, mostly Kosovar Albanians.

Since then, the region has been the scene of episodic frictions. The approximately 120,000 Kosovo Serbs, a third of whom live in the north of the territory, do not recognize the authority of Pristina, remaining loyal to Belgrade.

To accept this compromise , Serbia has demanded that an explanatory notice be posted at border crossings, which Belgrade describes as administrative crossings.

The text of this opinion will state that this measure was decided solely for practical reasons and that it cannot be interpreted as recognition of the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo, according to Mr. Petkovic.

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On the other hand, no compromise was found on Saturday regarding the Kosovo measure on license plates, regretted Josep Borrell.

Apart from the residence permit imposed at its borders, Pristina had also decided to require Kosovo Serbs to replace the Serbian license plates of their vehicles with Republic of Kosovo plates. /p>

These measures led to a new episode of violence at the end of July in northern Kosovo, where the Serb minority considers them vexatious. Under pressure from the United States, Pristina had postponed their implementation until September 1.

The job is not done, some issues are still pending. I expect the two leaders to continue to show pragmatism and a constructive spirit in order to solve the problem of the plates, said Josep Borrell.

Failing an agreement on license plates, Kosovo Serbs will have two months from September 1 to replace their license plates, according to Pristina's decision.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, however, remains very pessimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement on this dossier. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, he explained that the dispute over identity cards was only a lesser issue and that of the plates was much more complicated.

The crisis is continuing anyway, it is getting worse, he warned.

The crisis is continuing. NATO warned in mid-August that its peacekeeping force in Kosovo (Kfor) was ready to intervene if stability was threatened and to reinforce its personnel if necessary, to restore freedom of movement in the event of blockages and new violence. .

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