Belgrade, Pristina relaunch dialogue amid tension


After an eight-month hiatus, the Pristina and Belgrade teams will resume technical negotiations in Brussels on the implementation of the Integrated Border Management.

By Igor Jovanovic, Muhamet Brajshori and Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Belgrade and Pristina -- 09/10/12


A KFOR officer secures the road near the closed Serbia-Kosovo border crossing of Brnjak. The Integrated Border Management agreement provides for border checks to be done by officials from both Pristina and Belgrade. [Reuters]

Kosovo and Serbia will resume negotiations on Wednesday (October 10th) on technical dialogue that would include implementation of a border management agreement.

The agreement was reached in December, and was the last agreement before an eight-month break in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, sparked by the elections in Serbia. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo independence and considers the border with Kosovo an administrative line.

The crossings that divide northern Kosovo and southern Serbia are a flashpoint for tensions. Gunfire was reported at a Serbian police checkpoint at the Dobrosin border crossing on Sunday (October 7th). There were no casualties reported.

The incident followed Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic's statements that partitioning Kosovo "is the fastest, best and most fair solution which is acceptable for Albanians and Serbs alike because it is in keeping with their legitimate interests."

Dacic told Ljubljana-based daily Delo on Sunday that he supports "further dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, which could contain political and not just technical issues."

The border management agreement provides for a European solution on the control of the borderline between the two countries, with border check to be done by the officials from both Pristina and Belgrade, in the same building.

Belgrade and Pristina are approaching the talks from different positions -- Serbia wants to amend the parts of the agreement it considers to be unfavorable for Belgrade, while Pristina thinks the agreements are unchangeable and should be implemented as is.

Kosovo Serbs, particularly those in the north, had serious objections to the agreement and announced demonstrations over the presence of Kosovo police officers at the Jarinje and Brnjak crossings.

Dejan Pavicevic, the head of the Serbia's negotiating team, said that many provisions of the agreement are unfavorable for Serbia and he will try to change them.

The agreement contains a section on enabling its amendment, but Pavicevic said the idea would be difficult to carry out due to Pristina's stance. "We will foremost try to have EULEX customs officers be the only ones doing customs duty at the crossings," he told SETimes.

He said Serbia could not allow the crossings to turn into state borders.

Edita Tahiri, head of the Kosovo team in the technical talks, told SETimes that Kosovo institutions will have a full executive role at the border, and called Belgrade's demand for an executive role for EULEX, "a speculation that intend to create confusion."

"I refute the statements coming from the Serb side, saying there will be discussions on unsolved issues related to the technical protocol on the [agreement]. … We will see now how serious Serbia is in the implementation of this agreement," Tahiri told SETimes.

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Aleksandar Mitic, Kosovo Compromise project director, said the agreement on crossings was not good for Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs, that it delved into Serbian sovereignty and that it had been adopted for the sake of ensuring Serbia's EU candidate status.

"It is certain that the Kosovo Serbs, especially those in the north, will not accept an agreement that includes the presence of Pristina at the administrative crossings. Even if such an agreement were signed, it would not be applicable in the long term. Belgrade's negotiating team is facing a very difficult task," Mitic told SETimes.

One of the leaders of the Serbs in northern Kosovo, Marko Jaksic, said the Serbs in the north were ready to hold protest rallies if the agreement came to fruition.

"We cannot let them set up a border with Serbia. Officials of the new government announced in the election campaign that they would abolish all harmful agreements with Pristina, I don't know why they're now saying that they will implement them all," Jaksic told SETimes.

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