Several regional NGOs, under the umbrella of the British organisation Safeworld, presented a report on Tuesday which examines what effect the new borders have on the lives of people living along the demarcation lines of Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia.
“There is a slow progress in resolving this outstanding issue. There are diverse challenges, but one common feature across the western Balkan is that the new international borders have created obstacles to the movement of people,” said Ferdinand Nikola from Safeworld.
The report says that one common complaint across the region is the inadequate number of border crossings. People living in border areas also find the new borders inconvenient because of the additional costs of moving their goods.
Sava Stankovic, in charge of border issues in the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says that the insufficient number of checkpoints is due to the difficult economic situation.
“All the states are facing economic problems and a lot of money is needed if you want to build a border crossing. And people try to find the easier way, so that is why there are a lot of illegal crossings,” said Stankovic.
Illegal crossing is rife between Kosovo and Serbia. According to the report, the movement of people is particularly restricted in this region, since the July 2011 agreement on freedom of movement between Serbia and Kosovo is yet to benefit ordinary people.
“Problems with the movements between Kosovo and Serbia are not border issues, those are political matters. According to Resolution 1244 Serbia and Kosovo are divided with administrative lines and not a border. These days, every crossing becomes a political dispute,” said Oliver Ivanovic, the State Secretary in the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija.
Two weeks ago the Serbian authorities arrested several Albanians as retaliation for the arrest of four Serbs in Kosovo. Two Kosovo policemen were arrested after they have allegedly crossed the Serbian border illegally and the president of Kosovo’s Metalworker’s Union was detained at a border crossing.
Researchers also noted that national authorities and international actors lack transparency when it comes to dealing with border disputes, border management and security provision in border areas.
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