European Western Balkans

Vague prospects for border demarcation between Kosovo and Montenegro

Srđan Darmanović and Behgjet Pacolli; Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo

One of the first issues on the agenda of the new Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, was the resolution of the territorial dispute with Montenegro. However, the prospects for the resolution of the issue remain unclear as both the PM and the new Foreign Minister, Behgjet Pacolli, contrary to Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srđan Darmanović, according to whom the demarcation with Kosovo was a “finished thing”, stated that the demarcation with Montenegro would not be achieved in the upcoming period, as the “the composition of (…) [the] parliament is very complicated” and asked for understanding, Radio-Television of Montenegro reports.

Immediately after taking office, Haradinaj decided to disband the Commission in charge of the border delineation with Montenegro. Instead, he composed a new demarcation commission consisting of professionals mainly in opposition to the delineation agreed on in 2015.  Former LDK MP, Shpejtim Bulliqi, who diverged from the official position of his party and became a fierce opponent to the current version of the demarcation, was appointed as a new head of the Commission.  The aim of the new Commission is to remedy the mistakes made by the former demarcation Commission, which “cost Kosovo over 8,200 ha of land”. Haradinaj pointed out that the demarcation would be possible once “they have a clearer situation of the findings”.

To remind, Haradinaj and his Alliance for the future of Kosovo (AAK) have been, along with the Self-determination (Vetëvendosje) and the Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA per Kosovën), one of the fiercest opponents of the ratification of the demarcation agreement since it was signed in Vienna, on 26 August 2015, by the then Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci.

The disputed agreement was the last nail in the coffin of the already strained relations between the ruling coalition and the opposition and led to the deepening of the existing political crisis. The continuous blocking of the parliament was followed by the occasional release of the tear gas and mass protests, led by the representatives of Vetëvendosje, who asserted that the ratification of the agreement would mean the “capitulation of Kosovo”.  The continuous postponement of the vote on the ratification of the agreement, due to the lack of ascent, as both the opposition and some MPs from the ruling coalition had denounced the deal, gave legitimacy to the intensified protests aimed at aborting the contentious deal and bringing down the government.

The crisis over the demarcation appeared as the last straw for many Kosovars, as it emerged amid a myriad of other unresolved issues, such as extensive corruption, chronic unemployment, extreme poverty, institutional instability, and inefficiency, etc. Hence the reason it brought Kosovar institutions to the brink of collapse and precipitated the governments’ demise.

It remains to be seen how the new government, consisting of some of the fiercest opponents of the deal, would address the issue in the light of the continuous pressure coming both from the US and the EU. Federica Mogherini recently reiterated the position of the EU, urging the new Kosovo government to address the issue as soon as possible in order to enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen area, which was recommended by the European Commission in May 2016, but contingent on the ratification of the agreement with Montenegro. In addition, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama instigates the new government to accept the deal and proceed to the conclusion of the agreement.  Although it does not seem likely that the new Prime Minister would maintain his tough stance on the issue, it is still unclear when the impasse over the territorial dispute would be overcome.

Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States

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