Serbia Slates Kosovo’s Planned Fund for North

Kosovo’s plan to set up a fund for the Serb-run north financed out of customs duties collected on the border has run into strong opposition from Serbia.Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, has announced that the government will set up a special fund within the state budget for the Serb-run north, to be financed out of customs and taxes collected at the Brnjak and Jarinje border crossings with Serbia.

Thaci said the EU office in Pristina will be asked to set up a special bank account in a Kosovo bank, and the account will be used to manage the cash in the Fund.

The EU office in Pristina said it was awaiting details and the consent of both Kosovo and Serbia before opening the account.

“We commend both parties for achieving a provisional agreement on customs during their last round of dialogue in Brussels. It is up to the parties to provide details of their conclusions,” the EU office told Balkan Insight.

In the fourth round of the EU-mediated dialogue on January 17, Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, and his Kosovo counterpart reached a provisional understanding on the collection of customs duties, levies and VAT.

According to the Kosovo government, the money will be managed by a three-member board that will consist of a Serb, an Albanian and an international representative.

But Serbia was quick to attack the proposal, saying it had never agreed that customs money collected in the Serb-run north of Kosovo would go to the Kosovo government.

The northern segment of Kosovo is beyond the remit of the Pristina government, does not acknowledge the authority of its institutions, nor does it recognise Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, proclaimed in 2008.

Aleksandar Vulin, head of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo, said Thaci’s proposal only showed that Pristina was trying to do everything to prevent the customs agreement from being implemented.

“Thaci’s statement that the money [collected on customs in the north] will go to Kosovo’s budget is calculated to disturb and frighten the Serbs [in the north] and prevent them from taking part in implementation of these agreements,” he said.

Vulin said that Serbia would never encourage Kosovo Serbs to pay customs if the money was going to end up in the Kosovo government’s budget.

“If even one dinar collected at the administrative crossings was paid into the Kosovo budget, then neither I nor this government would ask the Serbs to take part in such an agreement,” Vulin added.

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