Illustration: BIRN

Kosovo to Stop Paying for Energy in Serb-Majority North

Minister of Economy says Kosovo government will not continue allocating state money to cover energy bills in the Serb-majority north, where consumers have not paid for their electricity since the war ended.

Kosovo’s Minister of Economy, Artane Rizvanolli, after a government meeting on Thursday, said Kosovo will not continue allocating money to pay for electricity used in the Serb-majority north of the country.

Rizvanolli said the government had already agreed that “the last payments made from the budget of Kosovo will be those until the deadline for implementation”, meaning the roadmap on the implementation of energy agreements from 2013 and 2015, signed between Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels on June 21, 2022.

 According to the June 2022 energy road map, if the Kosovo Energy Distribution and Supply Company, KEDS, and Kosovo’s electricity network system operator, KOSTT, do not agree with Drustvo Elektrosever, a subsidiary in Kosovo of Serbian state-run energy company Elektroprivreda Srbije, within 100 days from when the Kosovo Energy Regulator Office, ERO, gives the license for it to operate in the four Serb-majority municipalities in the north, the license can be suspended or withdrawn.

The ERO gave Elektrosever a license to operate on June 24, 2022. On October 20, 2022, the EU confirmed that KOSTT and Elektrosever had reached the technical standards agreement. In accordance with the road map on electricity, Elektrosever also submitted consumer data, which authorities in Kosovo say are not complete.

The ERO told BIRN: “The data sent by Elektrosever to KEDS and KOSTT via the EU were not complete”.

According to the June 2022 roadmap, Elektrosever would sign the necessary technical agreements with KOSTT and KEDS within ten days of a licence being issued, “in order to operate in the Kosovo energy market”.

These agreements would allow it “to provide distribution services (billing, collection, maintenance and physical connection of new customers) in the four northern Serb-majority municipalities”.

However, no contract has been signed with KEDS by the time of publication, more than one year since the road map was agreed.

Rizvanolli said on Thursday that on Wednesday KEDS sent its final request for a signature to Elektrosever and in this case Kosovo expects the signing to be done very quickly – within days.

“We have had constant requests from KOSTT since then [early October 2022, when the 100 day deadline expired] but we have not allocated additional funds as a government. We have made it clear to all parties that such a way of functioning cannot continue,” Rizvanolli said.

Serbs in the north of Kosovo have not paid for their electricity for over 20 years, since the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999, when Serbia lost control over its former province.

The electricity bills for the municipalities of North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan, and Zubin Potok, were included in the electricity bills of all Kosovo citizens until 2017, when the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruled that it was a human rights violation. Since then, the bills were paid by the Kosovo government. According to some estimates, this costs around 12 million euros a year.

 BIRN requested data on the estimated costs of the energy used in the four Serb-majority municipalities but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

On February 12, 2023, Kosovo PM Albin Kurti claimed the electricity cost for the four municipalities in the north had cost Kosovo about “320 million euros” since 1999.

Based on a 2013 Brussels agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, Drustvo Elektrosever was to provide distribution services in the four northern Serb-majority municipalities.

The company was established under Kosovo law in 2013 but was only granted a license in 2022 and it remains to be seen when it might start operating.

In August 2022, Kosovo allocated 40 million euros to KOSTT to cover the expenses of the electricity in the north. Rizvanolli at the time said the money would cover the debt owed for electricity in the north until November 2022, when the municipalities were supposed to pay the bills themselves in line with the road map.

KOSTT began to operate independently from Serbian operator EMS across the whole of Kosovo in December 2020 and then became part of the European Network for Transmission System Operators for Electricity, ENTSO-E, in a joint energy bloc with Albania.

“The KOSTT is going through financial difficulties because of obligations it has toward ENTSO; in order for us to continue to be on the same regulatory bloc and to implement the agreement that has been in place for two years, now is the time to extend it,” Fiance Minister Hekuran Murati said.

and 12/10/2023 - 15:08

12 October 2023 - 15:08

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.