By Marija Ristic
A freedom of movement deal reached between Belgrade and Pristina entered into force on Monday, a major step towards easing travel restrictions in the region.
As part of an agreement reached during talks in July, citizens of Kosovo will be allowed to enter Serbia with their Kosovo license plates and IDs, which previously was not possible because Belgrade did not recognise documents issued by the authorities in Pristina.
“People will now be able to travel freely in or through the territory of the other is good news for everybody. This is exactly why the dialogue was launched. To help improve lives of people,“ Robert Cooper, the EU facilitator for the ongoing talks between Belgrade and Pristina, said on Monday.
The Goverment of Serbia adopted a regulation on the freedom of movement at administrative crossings late last week, allowing the July agreement to enter into force.
Residents of Kosovo and Serbia will now be able to travel with ID cards into and through each other’s territory. At the crossing point they will receive an entry/exit document.
Initially the border crossings in Jarinje, Merdare and Depce will be opened for passage under this scheme. Gradually, the agreement will also start applying to all other crossings.
The new deal also applies to car insurance and vehicle license plates.
Cars with Serbian license plates and cars with Kosovo plates will be able to travel freely across the borders, once they purchase the required insurance at the crossing points.
The cost of the insurance has caused dissatisfaction among Kosovo Serbs, who argue that Serbia is effectively accepting Kosovo’s independence with this agreement.
“Kosovo Serbs are forced to use a license plate issued by the Kosovo police, because the owners of motor vehicles with license plates issued by the Provisional Institutions [in Pristina] receive a temporary plate that will cost €24,” Kosovska Mitrovica mayor Krstimir Pantic told Belgrade based news agency Tanjug.
“If you use a license plate issued by the Serbian Interior Ministry, you need to pay insurance that amounts to €60,“ he added.
Most Kosovo Serbs currently use license plates issued by Serbia because they reject the authority of the officials in Pristina. The concern now, Pantic explained, is that Serbs will use license plates issued by Kosovo in order to pay a smaller insurance fee to cross the border.
Pantic added that the new deal will not help in removing the barricades that have been blocking some roads in northern Kosovo for the past several months.
Kosovo Serbs erected barricades in July, in protest against an attempt by the Kosovo government to take control of the border with Serbia.