Serbia and Kosovo conclude a “free movement agreement”

Following negotiations led by the EU, Pristina agrees not to introduce on September 1, as was its intention, residence permits for people entering Kosovo with a Serbian identity card, said the head of diplomacy European Josep Borrell on Twitter, claiming to have “received guarantees” from Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

In exchange, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic agreed to remove the permit that Belgrade imposed on visitors with Kosovar identity cards to enter Serbia. In addition to this residence permit imposed at its borders, Pristina had also decided to require Kosovo Serbs to replace the Serbian license plates of their vehicles with Republic of Kosovo plates.

“The job is not done”

These measures led to a new episode of violence at the end of July in northern Kosovo, where the Serbian minority considers them vexatious. Under pressure from the United States, Pristina had postponed their implementation until September 1. On the other hand, no compromise was found on Saturday concerning the Kosovo measure on license plates, regretted Josep Borrell.

“The work is not finished, some issues are still pending. I expect the two leaders to continue to show pragmatism and a constructive spirit in order to resolve the issue of the plates,” he said. Belgrade has never recognized the independence proclaimed by Kosovo in 2008, a decade after a bloody war that left 13,000 dead, mostly Albanian Kosovars.

Since then, the region has been the scene of episodic frictions. The approximately 120,000 Kosovo Serbs, a third of whom live in the north of the territory, do not recognize the authority of Pristina, remaining loyal to Belgrade.

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NATO ready to intervene

As the Russian offensive in Ukraine continues, “we do not need additional problems and tensions”, reaffirmed Josep Borrell on Saturday. In mid-August, before a meeting with the two Balkan leaders in Brussels, he judged that “it was time to progress towards a complete normalization of relations” between the two countries, a key condition for their accession to the EU.

Serbia and Kosovo both aspire to join the EU: Belgrade has had official candidate status since 2012, which has enabled it to engage in negotiations, while Kosovo is only a “potential candidate”. However, five EU countries still refuse to recognize the independence of the former Serbian province.

For its part, NATO warned in mid-August that its peacekeeping force in Kosovo (Kfor) was “ready to intervene if stability were threatened” and to reinforce its personnel if necessary, to “restore the freedom of traffic” in the event of blockages and new violence.

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