EU's Mogherini urges Kosovo ratify Montenegro border deal

PRISTINA: The European Union's foreign policy chief has urged Kosovo's opposition to ratify a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro, the last remaining condition before its citizens enjoy visa-free travel with Europe's Schengen member countries.

Federica Mogherini was in Kosovo, the last stop on her tour of the Western Balkans, where she met senior leaders on Saturday. She commended them for their "constructive stand" in lowering recent tensions with Serbia.

"It's time to vote for the ratification of the agreement. That would release the visa liberalization for the Kosovo people," she said at a news conference with Prime Minister Isa Mustafa. She urged opposition political parties to leave aside their political interest "and work together for the reconciliatory path to take the country ahead."

The country's opposition has prevented parliament from voting on the Montenegrin deal and another with Serbia that gives more powers to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. Obstructive tactics in the parliament include using tear gas, blowing whistles and throwing water bottles, while their supporters outside have clashed violently with police.

In the last three months, relations between Kosovo and Serbia have been tense following a series of frictions and incidents.

Last month Mogherini convened Kosovo's and Serbia's presidents and prime ministers twice in Brussels.

"There is no alternative to dialogue and dialogue is not for Brussels, but to the service of the people," she said.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, recognised by 114 countries but not by Serbia.

Mogherini's four-day tour in the Balkans started in Montenegro and included stops in Macedonia, Serbia, Albania and Kosovo, trying to reassure them that the EU remains open for enlargement.

The Western Balkan countries are at different stages of integration into the bloc.

"It is in the EU interest, it is in the interest of the people in this region that you continue the road to the EU consistently and fast enough. We consider this as a priority. We see this as an investment in our stability, security, our growth," said Mogherini.