By Linda Karadaku and Ivana Jovanovic
Kosovo and Serbia are scheduled to implement part of a free movement of people agreement on November 1st. The deal was hammered out over the summer during EU-mediated negotiations held in Brussels.
The head of Kosovo’s team in those talks, Edita Tahiri, says that based on the agreement illegal car plates should be replaced with RKS or KS bearing plates — designating post-independence Kosovo and UNMIK run Kosovo, respectively.
“We have extended the validity to car plates reading KS, [grandfathering] cars with those plates,” Tahiri told SETimes.
However, Tahiri’s Serbian counterpart in the Brussels talks, Borko Stefanovic, tells SETimes that cars bearing RKS plates will not be allowed to enter Serbia.
Implementing the rest of the agreement by the November 20th target may be more challenging as it includes the delicate issues of ID cards, driver’s licenses and car insurance.
Stefanovic says that if Kosovo authorities attempt to confiscate identity cards deemed unacceptable, there will be repercussions. “This time we have something that we have not had [before], and that is reciprocity. Now, if Albanians take ID cards from Serbs in Kosovo it is possible for Serbian powers to take ID cards from Albanians when they are in Serbia.”
“The Serb side is putting up obstacles,” says Tahiri. “Instead of being led by the concept of allowing free movement, the Serb side creates complicated logistics which we have refused, and the EU has refused them as well.”
She explains that those showing ID cards would also have to produce a piece of paper valid for entering and leaving both countries. But the content of the paper is problematic. “The Serb side insists on elements that do not comply with European principles; they want more data and unacceptable complications,” Tahiri said.
Dren Zeka, Tahiri’s chief political adviser, elaborates: “When asked to prove who an individual is, ID and the entry/exit proof letter are shown together. The entry/exit proof letter will not contain a photograph, and the language on [it] will be procedural only. In case it is lost, the individual must go to the nearest police station to get a receipt, [confirming] that he/she lost the entry/exit proof letter.”
Tahiri explains that the model is based on other countries that have prickly relations with neighbours, such as Greece and Macedonia.
Kosovo analyst Belul Beqaj is sceptical, telling SETimes that the agreements struck in Brussels “cannot be implemented … without juridical guarantees”.
The only agreement actually implemented at this point is the one on trade, involving the customs stamps. The other three — on free movement, the cadastral files and the mutual recognition of the university diplomas — are pending.
November 20th is the target date because the EU Council of Ministers is to decide on enlargement in mid-December.
Political analyst Bogdana Koljevic, editor of the magazine New Serbian Political Thought, predicts “the consequences of implementing the agreement on free movement will be, above all, bad for the Serbs in Kosovo, because there is no balance.”
“Kosovo Albanians will be able to move freely on the territory of Serbia, and the Serbs — with the Serbian documents — will not have that kind of freedom of movement. These agreements were signed far more in favour of the Albanian side than the Serbian side.”