|Belgrade - Pristina flights likely to resume|
Serbia and Kosovo have resumed talks on the establishment of flights between Belgrade and Pristina, which would link the two cities for the first time following a sixteen-year hiatus. Moderated by the European Union, the two sides and their respective Chamber of Commerce met in Rome last Thursday to discuss economic cooperation among which was the launch of flights between Belgrade and Pristina. However, the Kosovan Minister Without a Portfolio in Charge of Dialogue with Belgrade, Edita Tahiri, who attended the meeting, said flights between the two cities should be treated as a political, rather than an economic issue, and future services should be regulated and discussed only as a part of high level reconciliation talks between the two sides known as the Brussels Dialogue. For its part, the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo said the service should not be politicised. The Office said, “Such a stance taken by Pristina politicises an issue which is important to both the citizens and the economy”.
Kosovan media state it is “a matter of months” before Air Serbia launches services between Belgrade and Pristina. Furthermore, an agreement signed between the two blocks in Kosovo’s ruling coalition, LDK-PDK and the Serbian Srpska List, foresee the introduction of flights between the two cities. Slot Coordinator at Pristina Airport, Driton Hyseni, says, “Both countries have targets to join the European Union, and direct flights will give a good signal that our two nations are leaving the past behind, and looking for a better future”. The two sides agreed to hold a conference between Serbian and Kosovan businessmen on May 9 in Gračanica, where potential flights could be discussed once again.
Air Serbia has made no secret of its intentions to fly to Pristina. In October last year, the carrier’s Chairman, Siniša Mali said, “Our goal is to eventually fly twice daily to all cities in the region but before we do that we need to connect the last two cities in the former Yugoslavia that we do not fly to yet - Zagreb and Pristina”. Air Serbia has since launched double daily flights to the Croatian capital. As EX-YU Aviation News learns, the establishment of flights between Belgrade and Pristina has been marked as a high priority by the Serbian government and services between the two cities could be initially launched by a foreign carrier which would be granted rights to operate the route. Last October, the Serbian government reached an agreement with its Kosovan counterpart to extend a free movement agreement, allowing Kosovan passport holders to transit though Belgrade Airport.