Kosovo seeks firm borders with Montenegro, Serbia

23/08/2012

Kosovo is working with neighbouring countries for a political solution that will benefit the region as whole, analysts say.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 23/08/12

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KFOR soldiers stand guard at the close Serbia-Kosovo border crossing of Jarinje in 2011. [Reuters]

Kosovo announced on Saturday (August 18th) that it is preparing to start the demarcation process of its border with Montenegro and potentially the much more complicated issue of Serbia, following completion of the process with Albania and Macedonia.

The 79km-border with Montenegro goes mainly through a rocky, mountainous area, starting from the triangle between Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo up to the triangle between Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

"No disagreements are expected between the two states [Kosovo and Montenegro]," Murat Meha, head of the governmental commission on demarcation, told SETimes.

Montenegro has recognised Kosovo's independence, but the demarcation of the border is always a difficult process in the Balkans, Meha said.

"There are always questions, skepticism, and pretentions in the process of the demarcation of the border line and the commission has to face them," Meha said. "The commission offers documents and analysis based on the country’s legal basis, in its own experience and the international experience."

Commissions from Kosovo and Montenegro met last year to discuss the documentation for the border. "Both sides have valid documentation dating since the beginning of the last century," Meha confirmed.

The commission is also working on the eventual demarcation of the border with Serbia. Kosovo and Serbia entered into EU-mediated dialogue in March 2011. Last year, an agreement was reached on border management in which each country's citizens can cross into the other's territory with a so-called entry-exit proof letter, which has to be shown at the border along with an ID card.

Serbia, an EU candidate, does not recognise Kosovo and considers its former republic to be part of its own territory.

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Kosovo has completed demarcation of its borders with Albania and Macedonia. [SETimes graphic]

Pristina, meanwhile, believes that the demarcation of the Kosovo-Serbia border should be carried out as a European standard for friendly relations, and as one of the basic conditions for European integration, Meha said.

Kosovo has a 380-km border with Serbia that runs from the triangle between Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo up to the triangle between Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo.

"Based on the documentation and facts that the Republic of Kosovo has at its disposal, there should be no disagreements," Meha told SETimes.

Meha noted that this is a political issue. "Kosovo and Serbia are two neighbouring countries and they will be interested in cross-border co-operation. Therefore, the border line between them will be defined."

The Serbian government declined to comment on the matter Thursday. But Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said last fall, when he was Interior Minister, that it is necessary to determine new demarcation lines in Kosovo in order to peacefully solve the dispute between Belgrade and Pristina. "New demarcation is necessary because it would simply in some way recognize Serbian national interests in Kosovo. We have a situation today that we could lose everything," he told the daily Politika.

The northern border remains very fragile. Serbs who make the overwhelming majority in the north, do not recognise Kosovo's independence. The Kosovo Interior Ministry has made it a priority this year to strengthen border control at crossings in Jarinje and Brnjak and to intensify joint patrols with KFOR.

Kosovo Police spokesperson Baki Kelani, told SETimes that they are present at the northern border together with KFOR and EULEX. "Depending on the situation, police presence there can be increased," he said.

According to Mentor Vrajolli, senior researcher for the Kosovo Center for Security Studies, Serbia does not recognise any borders with Kosovo, and considers Kosovo its integral part.

"Getting into a dialogue for the demarcation of the border with Kosovo would mean that Serbia recognises de facto and de jure the power of the official Pristina on the entire territory of Kosovo. A huge international pressure would be needed to get Serbia to sit down at the table with Kosovo on this subject," he told SETimes.

However, the demarcation of the border between Kosovo and Serbia would directly contribute to resolution over conflicts pertaining to issues such as Northern Kosovo and Preshevo Valley, he added.

Belgrade has never considered any borders with Kosovo as such, said analyst and university professor, Belul Beqaj.

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"Belgrade always considered that Serbia has a border with Albania. That’s why it is very difficult nowadays to remove an illusion that has been cultivated since before the former Yugoslavia was established," he said.

However, Meha said that all states that derived out of the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia or after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union have been established within their former administrative boundaries.

"Kosovo proclaimed independence based on the boundaries it had within the former Yugoslavia," Meha said, adding that the proclamation of independence was done based on an Ahtisaari document and on Kosovo boundaries established in the former Yugoslav constitution of 1974.

"There is no state without borders and no borders without a state, therefore, the Republic of Kosovo will do the demarcation with all its neighbours in order to further increase cross-border co-operation," he said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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