By Muhamet Brajshori and Ivana Jovanovic
Dragisa Stankovic, 49, lives in a village near Gnjilane, in eastern Kosovo, and works in the trade business. As part of his job, he travels at least once a week to Vranje, Serbia.
Due to the newly implemented freedom of movement agreement, Stankovic changes his car plates each time he crosses the border in Konculj.
“I do not dare to drive into Kosovo with Serbian license plates and to drive in Serbia with Kosovo ones, I have to pay large [insurance fees],” he told SETimes.
Kosovo citizens who enter Serbia pay 105 euros in insurance per passenger car per month, while trucks and buses pay 236 euros monthly. Serbian trucks entering Kosovo pay 160 euros per month for insurance, and Serbian passenger cars pay 120 euros per month.
“Serbs, [and] Albanians complain about the fact that in the future, to cross the administrative line, they’ll have to allocate a large sum of money,” Mitrovica Mayor Krstimir Pantic told SETimes.
Many find themselves limited in their movement, but now by finances.
Dragan Jovanovic, a Serb from Gracanica, returned from spending the holidays in Vranje last week. He said the agreement has made his life more difficult, financially.
“They said this would enable a better life, but what better life is it when you have to pay the most expensive insurance in Europe?” Jovanovic said to SETimes. He said he will need to decrease his travels to Serbia. “I cannot afford these prices.”
However, despite the cost, some do see benefits in the freedom of movement agreement.
“I will now be able to invite my friends from Pristina to visit me in Presevo — they could not do that before,” student Arton Jashari told SETimes.
Under the agreement, holders of Kosovo documents are able to travel to Serbia for the first time since 1999. Those who needed to travel before the agreement’s implementation on December 26th needed to get special permissions from the Serbian Interior Ministry, a procedure that took time.
European integration expert Alber Gashi told SETimes that both dialogue teams should reach an agreement on the insurance scheme.
“I think it was unrealistic to impose this price for insurance — it is huge [compared to] the salary levels on both sides. However, the issue has been regulated because in the past many car accidents happened and no insurance company took responsibility because of the lack of an insurance scheme,” Gashi said.
“When we are talking about interests of citizens in Kosovo, both Serbian and Albanian, an adequate solution that will relieve them, and not further compromise them, must be found,” Serbian Parliamentary Committee for Kosovo Vice-President Dejan Radenkovic told SETimes.
Belgrade negotiating team chief Borislav Stefanovic said that a technical agreement between companies in Serbia and Kosovo will be reached soon, which should facilitate the mutual recognition of insurance. Under those terms, for example, a vehicle insured in Serbia can be driven in Kosovo without additional fees.
“The goal of the measures is not to prevent people from movement by high prices, it is, on the contrary, to allow freedom of movement,” Stefanovic said.