|Serbian government eyes Belgrade - Pristina service in 2016|
Serbia is hoping to re-establish direct flights between Belgrade and Pristina for the first time in over seventeen years in 2016. Following talks with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Frederica Mogerini, yesterday, the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, said, "We will discuss this issue [Pristina flights] in Brussels but, hopefully, at lower level talks as well. We are particularly interested in the greater freedom of movement. We want our national airline to land at Pristina Airport. It would be wise that aircraft of one of the most successful companies in the region fly there". It is the second time in two weeks that the PM has called for swifter action in re-establishing services between the two cities, although the issue has been discussed throughout the year during EU-moderated reconciliation talks known as the Brussels Dialogue.
Last October, the Serbian government reached an agreement with its Kosovan counterpart to extend a free movement agreement, allowing Kosovan passport holders to transit through Belgrade Airport. During 2014, NATO reopened Kosovo's upper airspace for commercial jets. Airliners travelling between northern Europe and southeastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia no longer have to skirt Kosovo but fly straight over it. In addition, last week, NATO lifted restrictions for commercial aircraft to fly over a 25 kilometre zone, known as the Air Safety Zone, separating Serbia and Kosovo. Officials at Pristina Airport have said that, "Direct flights will give a good signal that our two nations are leaving the past behind, and looking for a better future”.
Kosovan media have stated it is “a matter of months” before Air Serbia launches services between Belgrade and Pristina. The Chairman of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board, Siniša Mali, noted late last year that the carrier aims to fly to all capital cities of the former Yugoslavia twice daily, including Pristina. It has previously been suggested that flights could initially be run by a foreign carrier, which would be granted rights to operate the route. Currently, the quickest way to fly between Belgrade and Pristina is via Vienna, with journey time of over three and a half hours. JAT Yugoslav Airlines was the last to operate commercial services between the two cities. Scheduled year-long flights between the two Belgrade and Pristina were first launched in mid-1965.