It will come as no surprise that Serbs in northern Kosovo are determined not to recognize their new parent state. But many are actually exploiting the legal ambiguity by running a thriving black market in tax-free gasoline.
Gas is currently being sold in northern Kosovo for under 70 cents a liter, less than half the price elsewhere in Kosovo or Serbia. As long as the UN is unable to transfer power to the new EU mission (EULEX) nobody is effectively in charge of the part of Kosovo populated by Serbs.
The Serbs have taken a few proactive measures to further their business model. Following Kosovo's declaration of independence six months ago Serbs destroyed two UN-run customs checkpoints, which have remained unguarded since then. The UN placed cameras at the checkpoints less than a week ago, but no staff.
However, a UN official told our South Slav Service
: "The only way to put staff back at the gates is by force, and it won't be sustainable unless Serbs agree." But perhaps that isn't really the issue. As long as cheap gasoline is available to both Serbs and Albanians it's hard to imagine the border controls being reestablished.
-- Gordana Knezevic/Luke Allnutt