5.12.2011, SETimes, Kosovo, Serbia agreement on IBM draws doubts

SETimes, 5.12.2011
By Linda Karadaku and Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade - 05/12/11

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com

Kosovo and Serbia agreed on the Integrated Borders Management, but many groups are questioning the arrangement.

During resuscitated talks between Belgrade and Pristina last week, an agreement was reached on the Integrated Borders Management (IBM) that deals with the crossings between Serbia and Kosovo.
"Having in mind that the parties will be required to gradually harmonise their legislation with the EU acquis, the parties reached an agreement on the EU-developed concept of integrated management for crossing points (IBM)," the EU, which facilitated the dialogue, said.
This means that the parties "will gradually set up the joint, integrated, single and secure posts at all their common crossing points" and EULEX will be present. "The IBM concept will be gradually implemented as soon as practically possible," the Union said.
EU facilitator Robert Cooper said the agreement on IBM is "an integrated management of all the things you have -- customs posts, police posts, frontiers posts."
"All these things are brought together," Cooper said. He said that EULEX is already present at the gates -- in accordance with its mandate -- and that will continue with the arrangements, "except that the gates instead of being gates in one side of the line, will be sort of double gates, including people from both sides of the line".
"So there will be Serb police and Kosovo police and EULEX … The idea of these agreements is that in a single space, you have all the different services from Kosovo and Serbia working together to control the crossing points," Cooper said.
The head of the Kosovo delegation in the talks, Edita Tahiri, said that the agreement on the IBM is in full accordance with the laws and the constitution of Kosovo.
She said the IBM agreement should be signed by both sides, and by the EU facilitator.
EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic, told SETimes that the Union is proceeding with this agreement in the same way it has done with the rest of the agreements in the dialogue. None of the previously reached agreements, however, has been signed.
"I expect this will be the case. I expect the same system that we have established during the dialogue," Kocijancic said. He underlined the expectation of the EU for implementation of this agreement as soon as possible.
MP of Unique Serbian List in the Kosovo Parliament, Rada Trajkovic, told SETimes that she is satisfied by the agreement. Any change is better than status "quo" which has been in effect too long, she said.
"I would like that we accept this decision … without any changes in the ethnic structure of population. Everything that is agreed and everything that is done, I see as a chance for a normal life. As much as Serbs are living normal that much Serbia will be present on Kosovo," Trajkovic told SETimes.
"I think that for Serbs from the north, it is essential to adopt this Integrated Border Management, or Administrative Lines Management, because we are hearing about crime in northern Kosovo and how the whole north is criminalised. This acceptance is the best way to separate the part of Serbs from the north who are not engaged in any illegal trade or any other forms of crime from those who are making profit there," Belgrade-based Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration Executive Director Jelena Milic told SETimes.
"If we are interested in what is happening in Kosovo, then it [is in our] interest that Kosovo is part of the new trends, not to be a black hole."
Although the agreement is being heralded as a breakthrough in light of the continuing tensions at the northern crossings in Kosovo, some are questioning the specifics.
Kosovo opposition party Movement Vetevendosje points out that the agreement uses the terminology "crossing points" -- while the abbreviation is IBM. "Which does not show what is meant by B -- border or boundary?" the party asks
"This letter is the initial in English for both -- the word border and the word for the administrative line. Edita Tahiri interprets that it is border. The success is based on one letter," Dardan Molliqaj, organising secretary for the Movement, told SETimes.
"Kosovo can not make an agreement for integrated border management with a state that does not recognise its border," he says.
Kosovo Serbs, who have been barricading the border crossings for almost six months, are not happy with the agreement.
"We will insist that the Constitutional Court give its opinion about constitutionality and legality of the achieved agreements, and we expect that [Serbia representative Borislav] Stefanovic will submit a written version of the agreement to the Serb representatives in Kosovo," Mitrovica Mayor Krstomir Pantic told SETimes.Kosovo analyst Avni Zogiani says integrated border management is about technical rules, which can be implemented in practice only when the sides consent.
"I think the current negotiations do not intend anything else, but to facilitate Serbia's way to integration. Kosovo, by agreeing today, is helping Serbia in its integration, without forcing it to recognise Kosovo border as an inter-state border," Zogiani told SETimes.
Shaban Guda, assistant director for Kosovo Border Police, who was part of the Kosovo delegation in the Brussels talks, told SETimes that the IBM is the most advanced form for the control and supervision of the border.
The implementation of the IBM will make it possible to have a faster circulation of people and goods and increases a lot the level of security and control of the border," Guda told SETimes.