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Kosovo PM Submits Disputed Border Pact for Ratification

Pressure from Washington and Brussels seen as crucial factor in decision that could further undermine the fragile government.

8 May 2017

Kosovo’s parliament will decide the fate of a border-demarcation agreement with Montenegro that opposition parties have vowed will never pass.

 

Isa Mustafa
The agreement would be put before parliament today, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa (pictured) said after a telephone conversation with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Yee, Balkan Insight reports.

 

Opposition groups headed by the nationalist party Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), led by controversial former guerrilla commander Ramush Haradinaj, have tried to scotch the agreement since it was signed in 2015, saying the country would be giving up substantial tracts of pasture land to its smaller neighbor.

 

Mustafa’s government has had to weigh strong domestic opposition to the agreement against pressure to pass it on the part of the State Department’s Yee and the European Union.

 

Top EU officials put ratification of the agreement at the top of the list of conditions for easing travel rules for Kosovans.

 

Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj discussed the issue at a meeting with the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the commissioner for enlargement, Johannes Hahn, in Brussels on 2 May. A Foreign Ministry statement said the European Commission now considers the demarcation issue as the only remaining criterion for visa liberalization, Balkan Insight reported last week.

 

Mustafa’s agreement to send the controversial demarcation pact to lawmakers is just the latest sign of Yee’s clout among Balkan leaders. A career diplomat, Yee is the main State Department liaison with Central and Southeastern Europe. A week ago he met with Macedonian leaders in the aftermath of a bloody invasion of parliament by nationalists opposed to a power-sharing deal with ethnic Albanian parties.

 

Yee urged all sides in Macedonia to permit the newly formed parliamentary majority made up of Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties to form a government, RFE/RL reported.

 

 

  • Some members of the Kosovo ruling coalition also oppose the border demarcation pact, making the odds of it being ratified hard to predict. Ethnic Serb parliamentarians had not clarified their stance on the issue, Balkan Insight wrote last week. Montenegro stands on the cusp of joining NATO, a move that will draw it much closer into Western power structures.

 

  • Yee also criticized the Hungarian law seen as an attempt to close down Central European University in Budapest, a prominent graduate school funded by American financier George Soros, a target of abuse from Hungarian (and Macedonian) conservatives.

 

  • The legislation is worrisome “because it targets [CEU] very clearly and threatens … this important American Hungarian institution,” Yee said in Budapest last month.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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