Civil aviation is one of the important issues that is being discussed or will be discussed in detail during the long negotiation process between Kosova [Kosovo] and Serbia under the EU mediation. This is a as much a European problem as it is one that concerns Albanians and Serbs and which has been confined with the regional boundaries. Despite its importance, very little has been heard from the Kosova side about the topics of the talks, but also about the strategy that is being followed, keeping this issue, like all the others, behind closed doors. In essence, the flight ban that Serbia has imposed for the past 10 years on Kosova is as much of a problem for this country as it is for the EU and its relations with Serbia.
For over 10 years, the airplanes that have been flying from the Prishtina [Pristina] Airport to European destinations have not been allowed to use the Serbian airspace, thus extending the length of flights by about 1 hour each way and thus increasing the costs for airline companies and ultimately for the passengers. This is where the concerns of Kosova, passengers, and airline companies as a result of this uncivilized blockade that has been imposed by Serbia end, but not the problem as a whole.
Among the passengers who fly from Prishtina every day, there have been senior officials working for UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo], EULEX [European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo], and ICO [International Civilian Office], as well as ambassadors of various countries. Many of them continue to make these costly and lengthy flights from the Prishtina International Airport. One thing that neither our state officials nor international officials have thought of is that the airspace ban that Serbia has imposed on Kosova increases the time and the cost of flights. Also, above all, it is at odds with the global trends for the protection of environment. These trends are important for the EU, United States, and every responsible person of this globe.
The Serbian blockade does precisely the opposite. It contributes to the air pollution and to the dangerous phenomenon of global warming. Kerosene is a kind of fuel that is used by jet aircraft. Extended length of flights means increased fuel consumption and more carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere, thus more unnecessary and unreasonable air pollution. This pollution is sanctioned by the EU and other countries, which have been trying to reduce the level of air pollution caused by flights in order to limit global warming. For these and many other reasons, which we will not mention here, the use of the Serbian airspace for the flights from the Prishtina Airport is an issue that should be discussed between our government and the EU. The EU should press Serbia not to violate the rules for the protection of environment or the principles of free trade, especially now that this country aspires to EU integration. In the past 10 years, we have never asked the EU to do this, but we have to ask it now.
As a result of our negligence, this issue is being discussed now in the talks between Kosova and Serbia, thus risking a possible agreement on this issue to be claimed by Serbia as a concession to our country. This concession, which is in fact not such, will have to be followed by a concession from our side, which may be of significant consequences. Therefore, Edita Tahiri [head of the Kosovo negotiating team] and the Kosova delegation should be careful not to treat this issue during negotiations as a problem between the Serbs and Albanians but as a European problem. In short, we should insist on a European solution for a European problem.
(Author is one of the most successful german-kosovar investors in Aviation Companies and Publisher of Daily Newspaper “Zëri” in Prishtina, Kosovo)
Remzi Ejupi, Zeri, 09.05.2011.