A man is seen withdrawing Serbian Dinars from a bank cash machine in the northern Serb-dominated part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. The ban on the Serbian currency was scheduled to commence on Thursday.
The United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany collectively urged Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to suspend the enforcement of a regulation prohibiting the use of the Serbian currency in Kosovo. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)
Kosovo authorities announced on Wednesday their decision to mandate the use of the country’s currency, the euro, and discontinue the use of the neighboring Serbia’s dinar in the northern region, where the majority of the ethnic Serb minority resides.
Ahmet Ismaili, Kosovo’s Central Bank Governor, stated that new rules regarding local transactions in euros would be implemented in the northern municipalities starting Thursday. Additionally, all financial institutions in the area are required to register within the next month. Currently, four banks and 15 financial institutions in the region use Serbia’s dinar.
Governor Ismaili emphasized that the new rules were not specifically targeting the Serbian dinar. However, the decision has raised concerns among Western powers, anticipating increased tension in Kosovo’s relations with Serbia. These countries have strongly advised Pristina to postpone the move.
“The euro as the sole means of payment and purchase, clearly defined in the Republic of Kosovo, is not a negotiable issue,” stated Prime Minister Albin Kurti, dismissing the possibility of reconsidering the decision.
As of now, there has been no official reaction from Belgrade.
The decision has sparked worries among residents, including Blagica Radovanovic, a retired professor in Northern Mitrovica. She questioned the impact on individuals receiving social benefits, particularly those who have money delivered directly to their doors by postmen, expressing concerns about a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi assured the public that efforts would be made to ensure the new rules do not negatively impact or penalize the citizens. He pledged a comprehensive public awareness campaign to address any concerns.
Both the European Union and the United States are exerting pressure on both countries to implement agreements reached by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Prime Minister Kurti in February and March. The EU-facilitated normalization talks have faced obstacles, particularly following a shootout in September involving masked Serb gunmen and Kosovo police, resulting in four fatalities and escalating tensions.
While both Serbia and Kosovo express a desire to join the EU, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned that their unwillingness to compromise is jeopardizing their chances for membership.
The historical context includes a 1998-99 war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian separatists in what was then the province of Kosovo, resulting in around 13,000 deaths, mostly among ethnic Albanians. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but the government in Belgrade does not recognize it as a separate country.