Serbia, Albania and Kosovo advance security co-operation

27/08/2014

The countries make incremental steps to improving relations.

By Biljana Pekusic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 27/08/14

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Close to 300 Kosovo Serb policemen have been integrated in the Kosovo police. [AFP]

The Brussels agreement between Belgrade and Pristina has led to improvements in security since being implemented a little more than a year ago, but experts said it also provides opportunities to address outstanding security-related challenges.

The Serbian government gave Pristina a list of 337 policemen to work in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, as stipulated in the agreement, and nearly 300 of them have been hired.

"Additional training for those policemen is conducted at the Kosovo Academy for Public Security, and then they are sent to work in the municipalities where they live," Maja Belos, researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, told SETimes.

Another 800 other Serb policemen living outside northern Kosovo cannot be integrated into the Kosovo police, officials said.

Those who were integrated still work with lower ranks than what they had in the Serbian police, said Slavisa Arsenijevic, head of the Kosovo and Metohia department at the Serbia Internal Affairs Ministry.

"That is why colonels and captains patrol the streets. Moreover, payment of salaries is conditioned on obtaining a Kosovo identification card that is not quickly obtainable," Arsenijevic told SETimes.

Arsenijevic said not including Kosovo in regional initiatives against organised crime presents a security challenge. Moreover, the Serbia and Kosovo police forces co-operate indirectly through UNMIK, and there is no Belgrade-Pristina agreement for extradition.

"Still, contacts between the two police forces do exist, but they need to be made official through an agreement and establish co-operation mechanisms before EULEX leaves Kosovo likely in 2016," Shpen Kursani, of the Kosovo Centre for Security Studies in Pristina, told SETimes.

Similar integration issues concern policemen in the three Albanian-majority municipalities in Serbia -- Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja.

"In those municipalities, 89 percent of the inhabitants are Albanians and in the police there are only 50 percent Albanian," Sofia Kreziu, of the Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, told SETimes.

Experts said in addition to improving integration, the agreement provides room to improve cross-border movement.

"Now the flow of people is increased, but still there are only 20 percent Albanians from Kosovo that comes to Serbia, and most often in the Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja municipalities," Sonja Stojanovic Gajic, director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, told SETimes.

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Belgrade and Pristina have signed 18 bilateral agreements, including concerning security issues. By contrast Kosovo has signed 60 agreements with Macedonia and 40 agreements with Albania.

"Serbia and Albania signed a bilateral co-operation agreement against organised crime, international drug trafficking and international terrorism," Arjan Dyrmishi, of the Institute for Democracy and Mediation in Tirana, told SETimes.

Dyrmishi said an increasing number of people travel now to the other country and the planned visit by Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama will speed up the improvement of mutual relations.

What can Albania, Kosovo and Serbia do to address security-related issues? Share your opinion in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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