By Fatmir Aliu
Kosovo citizens can again enter Serbia via the northeastern border in Merdare, after a technical glitch was solved on the Serbian side of the border, a government official in Pristina told Balkan Insight.
For three days in a row, hundreds of passengers were stuck at the main Kosovo-Serbia crossing border in Merdare, due to a server problem, creating kilometres-long queues of vehicles at the border, keeping people stuck for hours in cars waiting to cross into Serbia.
A political advisor to the government of Kosovo, Dren Zeka, told Balkan Insight on Tuesday that the authorities suspected that the delays in Merdare were created artificially by the Serbian side, and explained that Pristina had contacted the EU to solve the issue.
“The traffic flow with Serbia at the Merdare border has been normalized after the intervention of Brussels. They were also told that the technical problems had been overcome, and Kosovo citizens can now easily enter Serbia with their ID cards,” Zeka said.
“There are no more queues, and we have reports that Kosovans have crossed into Serbia without delays,” he added.
Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, said that Belgrade fully observed the agreement on free movement reached in Brussels.
“The procedure agreed in Brussels is being observed and carried out at all crossings, and people with Kosovo IDs can normally enter central Serbia. Maybe it takes more time to carry it out because of the holiday traffic jams, but Pristina is using this to make Brussels exert pressure on Belgrade,” Bogdanovic said in a statement for the Tanjug news agency.
“This is nothing new, as they have been trying for months now to raise technical issues onto the political level,” he added.
Belgrade and Pristina reached an agreement on freedom of movement in July. The deal allows Kosovo citizens to cross into Serbia with ID cards and lets drivers enter Serbia with Kosovo license places and Kosovo driving licenses.
The agreement came into force on December 26. It made it possible for Kosovo citizens to freely enter Serbia for the first time since 1999, when the UN took over administering the former Serbian province.
Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci said earlier that the government would ask the European Union to put pressure on Belgrade to simplify the technical procedures at border crossings.
The current regulations allowing Kosovo citizens entry into Serbia involve copying the Kosovar’s ID card and attaching it to a paper listing such data as the passenger’s name, surname and date of birth.
When the Kosovar shows his passport, the document is taken from him or her and must remain at the border gate. The passport can be retrieved only after the person in question returns to Kosovo.
Kosovo’s government said the procedures that Serbia is applying to Kosovo citizens “represent disrespect of the free movement agreement by the Serbian side”.