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Six Minutes Late: Balkan Bickering Slowing Clocks Across Europe

Clocks for radio alarms, ovens, and heating systems are said to be running about six minutes late in all Western European countries.
Clocks for radio alarms, ovens, and heating systems are said to be running about six minutes late in all Western European countries.

European power operators say a dispute between Serbia and Kosovo is sapping a small amount of energy from the continent's electricity grid and causing electronic clocks to run several minutes late across Europe.

The Brussels-based power operators association ENTSO-E said on March 7 that "political disagreements" between the Balkan neighbors have caused a decrease in the electric frequency in the continental network since mid-January.

"The decrease in frequency average is affecting those electric clocks that are steered by the frequency of the power system and not by a quartz crystal," it said in a statement.

As a result, clocks for radio alarms, ovens, and heating systems currently are running about six minutes late in all Western European countries, it said.

The power association said it "is urging European and national governments and policy makers to take swift action" to resolve the dispute between Serbian and Kosovar authorities that it said "has led to the observed electricity impact."

The association said the problem stems from a shortfall of power production in Kosovo. All of the nations in Europe share a power grid, with each nation putting power into the grid and making it available for consumption.

Each nation's electricity contribution is agreed to and measured by the grid operators to keep the system operating at a preset energy level.

But lingering political differences between Serbia and Kosovo have prevented the two Balkan countries from resolving how to compensate for the shortfall in Kosovo's power production, the association said.

Serbia's power grid company EMS AD blamed the missing power on Kosovo, which it said is "uninterruptedly withdrawing, in an unauthorized manner, uncontracted electric energy" from the grid.

EMS AD, which is tasked with balancing the Kosovo grid, said it "has committed all its resources to resolving this issue in a swift and efficient manner."

The Serbian power company said that the Kosovo operator KOSTT has already taken action to resolve the problem and had "ceased, as of March 3, its unauthorized power withdrawal."

In Pristina, KOSTT Deputy Director Kadri Kadriu said that the problem was in northern Kosovo, an area populated with some 40,000 minority Serbs who refuse to recognize the ethnic Albanian authorities.

Some of the ethnic Serbian customers haven't been paying the power bills they've been receiving from the Kosovar government, the power company said.

"KOSTT is supplying the north of Kosovo with electricity and it is considered as a loss," Kadriu said.

The problem has been aggravated by Serbia's refusal to recognize the declaration of independence in 2008 by Kosovo, which Belgrade still regards as a province of Serbia.

While 116 other countries recognize Kosovo's independence, Serbia has blocked Pristina's attempts to join international organizations like the UN and the European power association ENTSO-E.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa
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