Sasa Rasic has enthusiastically embraced his role as Kosovo's integrated border management co-ordinator.
By Linda Karadaku and Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 27/11/12
Kosovo integrated border management co-ordinator Sasa Rasic in his office in Pristina. [Linda Karadaku/SETimes]
Kosovo's national co-ordinator for integrated border management, 39-year-old lawyer Sasa Rasic said he considers Kosovo his home and has set politics aside to improve the movement of people and goods and to prevent cross-border crime.
"I will do my best to provide decent conditions for all people living in Kosovo," Rasic, a Kosovo Serb, told SETimes.
The implementation of the border management agreement, which was previously reached with Serbia during the Pristina-Belgrade talks, is expected to happen next month.
The advancement of the agreement is a benchmark for the Kosovo visa-liberalisation roadmap. The EU requested that the Western Balkan countries implement the agreement and run the borders efficiently.
"The key role of [integrated border management] as a concept is the national security and public safety in identifying possible threats, making risk analysis, detecting and preventing organised crime."
Kosovo has a legal framework and a strategy to implement integrated border management through the work of three agencies -- the police, customs and the food and veterinary authority.
"My role is to make sure these three agencies work together well, share information, equipment, space in order to make the flow of people and goods better and faster as well as to detect and prevent possible transnational crime at the border," Rasic told SETimes.
That is going to happen with Serbia. We are in the phase of identifying the locations to construct the six border crossings. Actually, we are in the preparation phase of physically installing them," Rasic said.
But the head of the Serbian government's team for technical negotiations with Pristina, Dejan Pavicevic, said that Belgrade will not allow the crossings to Kosovo to turn into borders, and will demand that EULEX representatives have an executive role at them.
Pavicevic told SETimes that the border management agreement would first be implemented at two crossings -- Merdare and Jarinje in Kosovo's north, where Serbs make up the majority of the population.
"We already have the police, the customs and a special section of the tax administration at the crossings,” said Pavicevic, adding that the only thing that will change is that all officers will be at the single site of control.
Kosovo has turned down a EULEX executive role in the border crossings, saying the representatives of the Kosovo agencies will be at the border. But Pavicevic said talks were still in progress on the role of EULEX at the crossings.
"We insist that EULEX have an executive mandate at all crossings, but especially at those in northern Kosovo," Pavicevic told SETimes. He said Serbian police would be at the crossings -- but not border police because for Belgrade, the crossings "are not a border."
Commenting on Serbia's position on this agreement, Rasic said the border management is a technical issue that should not be politicised.
However, when it comes to the question if Serbia has de facto accepted Kosovo borders by accepting this agreement, Rasic said Serbia has done that since 1999 or 2000 when it deployed its police and custom officers at the border crossings.
"If it is to be said so, they did in 2000 by deploying these agencies," Rasic said.
Rasic said the officials from both sides who will work in these integrated border crossings are professionals and "emotions, if any, will be excluded."
"I do not expect any problems and I know police everywhere in the world respect each other, custom officers like and respect their colleagues. I look forward to see this happening between the two sides," Rasic said.
In addition, Rasic works to establish intra-agency, inter-agency and international co-operation with neighbouring countries. Kosovo has already signed police co-operation agreements with Macedonia and Albania, and co-operation protocols with Montenegro.
Being a member of the Serbian minority in Kosovo originally posed a dilemma for Rasic over whether to accept a position with the Kosovo government.
"It did not take much to resolve this dilemma. Kosovo is my home too. My children live here, my family, my community. For me, it is a job I am supposed to do regardless of the past or current situation," Rasic said.