The European Commission has joined the critical voices regarding Kosovo following the entry into force on February 1 of a regulation by the Central Bank of Kosovo. This regulation stipulates the use of the euro for cash payments, prohibiting the use of the Serbian dinar, which is used by Serbs living in Kosovo.
The Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission, Eric Mamer, during a press conference in Brussels on February 2, said that this institution expresses regret over this decision and joins the calls of other international actors to ensure a sufficient period for the resolution of this issue through dialogue for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, mediated by the European Union.
“The Commission regrets the fact that this decision was adopted without prior consultations, considering the consequences that this decision may have on the daily lives of Serbs in Kosovo and other communities in Kosovo. The Commission is particularly concerned about its impact on schools and hospitals, given that there are no other alternatives,” said Mamer.
Mamer said that the European Commission supports the statement issued earlier by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.
Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, Besnik Bislimi, said on Wednesday that the implementation of the regulation for cash payments will be through a facilitated transition, without indicating how long this will last.
“The Commission is aware of the decision of the Central Bank of Kosovo to allow a transitional phase. The EU urges Kosovo to ensure that this transitional period is sufficiently long to find a negotiated solution within the dialogue mediated by the EU,” said Mamer.
When asked why the European Commission and the European Union are criticizing a state that uses the euro and the decision of an independent institution, such as the Central Bank of Kosovo, spokesperson Mamer said that in this case, criticism is directed at the manner in which the decision was adopted.
“Our statement should not be misinterpreted. We have not criticized Kosovo for adopting the euro or deciding which currency to use. We have only commented on the fact that this decision was adopted without prior consultations. Because at this moment, you have people, institutions, including hospitals, operating within a framework, receiving financial aid from Serbia, and they need sufficient time to prepare,” he said.
He said that this issue should have been addressed in the normalization dialogue, “before the decision was announced so that a practical solution could be found, for people and institutions to adapt”.
The EU spokesperson for security issues, Peter Stano, also said that the bloc is not criticizing the decision, but the manner in which it was made.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with the euro, but with how this decision was adopted and the risk it brings,” said Stano.
The implementation of the Central Bank of Kosovo regulation on cash operations has also been criticized by the United States.
“I want to reiterate what the United States has said, we have deep concerns and reservations about its implementation before it is fully prepared. I can say with certainty that we oppose it now,” declared U.S. Ambassador to Pristina Jeff Hovenier on February 1.
Since the post-war period in 1999, Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, has used the dinar to pay pensions, social assistance, and salaries for parallel institutions it has in Kosovo, including hospitals and schools.
Residents of the ten Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo have also used the dinar for payments in shops and restaurants.
The Government of Kosovo has stated that the Central Bank of Kosovo regulation does not imply the cessation of money transfers from Serbia and also does not imply financial penalties for possessing currencies of other states.