Citizens in North Mitrovica protest euro only policy regulation of the Kosovo Central Bank; Photo/BIRN

Kosovo Serbs Protest Euro-Only Policy as Bank Offers Transition Period

Kosovo Serbs on Monday held a protest in North Mitrovica against the new rule enforcing use of the euro as the sole currency, as the Central Bank announced a three-month 'transition' period and measures to ease implementation of the policy.

A few thousands of Kosovo Serbs gathered on Monday in North Mitrovica’s main square to protest against the enforcement of the euro as the only currency for payments in Kosovo, calling the decision “unjust”.

The regulation, which entered into force on February 1, despite international calls for a postponement, aims to fight counterfeit money. It simultaneously enforces a euro-only policy, so banning transactions in Serbia’s currency, the dinar, which is still used daily by Kosovo Serbs, especially in the Serb-majority north.

Last week, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, said Belgrade will keep paying Kosovo Serbs in dinars.

Dragisa Milovic, director of North Mitrovica’s hospital, said the decision affects “those who are most vulnerable and those who receive social assistance.

“This decision goes against the survival of the Serbian people in these areas. It aims to stop Serbia’s institutions in Kosovo. It is also against those Albanians who take pensions in dinars,” he told the crowd who were holding banners attacking the new policy and blaming Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, for it.

Some of the banners carried by protesters read “I was earning my pension all my life, I won’t give it to Kurti”, “This is an occupation”, “UN 1244 USA HELP”, “Europe open your eyes”, “Without social benefits, we won’t even have for food”.

Kurti insists the decision is not directed against their community. He has announced that in a transitional period there will be no punitive measures against those who continue using dinars in transactions.

“We cannot reverse this decision,” Kurti told Bloomberg news agency on Monday. “They asked for more time and we are giving more time and even our American and European partners now are saying that the regulation is legal, because it is fighting terrorists financing illicit activities, but that we should not be too hasty in absolute implementation. And this is what we are going to do, throughout this month of February,” he added.

Hours after the protest, the Central Bank announced that, over the next three months, they will provide additional actions aimed at “facilitated implementation” of the new regulation.

During this period, the bank will open a helpline for complaints, facilitate conditions for opening bank accounts and temporarily suspend the bank’s tariff for opening non-banking financial institutions in the northern Serb-majority municipalities (North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok) and expand banking branches in these municipalities.

“These actions are taken besides constructive engagement in facilitating a mechanism of effective money transfers from Serbia to Kosovo through bank accounts and already recognised models,” the bank said.

Dusanka Djorovic, head of the Pensioners’ Association in North Mitrovica, said thousands of Serbs depend on financial support from Serbia. “For us, it is important this decision is reversed and we continue to take our pensions in banks and postal offices, in order to allow us live as anywhere in the world,” she said.

Kosovo Police said the protest ended peacefully.

12/02/2024 - 16:38

12 February 2024 - 16:38

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