Phioto: BIRN.

Kosovo Citizens Unfairly Charged for Serb Municipalities’ Electricity: Court

Kosovo’s Constitutional Court ruled that people around the country should be compensated for having been made to subsidise electricity supplies that were not paid for by consumers in four Serb-majority municipalities from 2012 to 2017.

The Constitutional Court on Monday confirmed a Supreme Court decision to compensate Kosovo citizens who were billed for the electricity used without payment in four Serb-majority municipalities in the country’s north from 2012 to 2017.

The case originated in a lawsuit issued by Kosovo’s Ombudperson challenging a 2012 decision by the Energy Regulatory Office that allowed people in the rest of the country to be billed for the electricity used in the northern municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok.

It also called for compensation to be paid for the costs incurred by consumers who were made to subsidise the Serb-majority municipalities’ unpaid electricity consumption.

The Ombudsperson argued that this was a violation of Law on the Energy Regulator and Law on Electricity, as well as a violation of the rights to property and to equality, which are guaranteed under the constitution.

The Basic Court in Prishtina annulled as illegal the Energy Regulatory Office’s 2012 decision and ordered compensation of 40,855,480 euros to be paid for the costs incurred in the period from February 2012 to October 2017.

Two other courts also ruled in favour of the Ombudsperson and ordered compensation to be paid to consumers who were wrongly charged. The Constitutional Court upheld the rulings’ legality.

Until now, residents of the four northern municipalities have not paid for their electricity since the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999, when Serbia lost control over its former province. At the beginning of March 2024, billing for electricity use started in the four municipalities for the first time in over two decades.

Based on the 2013 Brussels Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, and regulated by the so-called Energy Road Map of 2022, the company Elektrosever will provide distribution services in the four northern Serb-majority municipalities. The company was established under Kosovo law in 2013 but was only granted a licence in 2022 and started operating recently.

On March 1 this year, Elektrosever told Kosovo public broadcaster Radio Television of Kosovo, RTK, that electricity consumers in the four northern municipalities will be billed at a flat rate of 21 euros and 60 cents each.

“With a payment in the amount of 21.60 euros, a supply agreement with the company Elektrosever will be considered to have been concluded. Elektrosever officials will bring the electricity supply agreements to the citizens for signature,” Elektrosever told RTK.

Kosovo’s government paid for the electricity in the north from 2017 to 2023, because in 2017 the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruled that the electricity bills for the municipalities of North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan and Zubin Potok, which were being included in the electricity bills of all Kosovo consumers, was a human rights violation.

Since then, the cost to the Kosovo government of paying for the four municipalities’ electricity has been estimated at around 12 million euros a year.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti claimed in February 2023 that the electricity used by the four municipalities in the north had cost Kosovo about “320 million euros” since 1999.

In October 2023, Kurti’s government announced it would stop paying for the electricity in the four municipalities.

12/03/2024 - 14:33

12 March 2024 - 14:33

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.