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EU reprimands Kosovo's move to close down Serb bank branches over the use of the dinar currency

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EU reprimands Kosovo's move to close down Serb bank branches over the use of the dinar currency
News

News

EU reprimands Kosovo's move to close down Serb bank branches over the use of the dinar currency

2024-05-21 23:27 Last Updated At:23:31

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The European Union reprimanded Kosovo Tuesday over the unilateral closure of six branches of a Serbia-licensed bank, saying the move would negatively impact the life of the ethnic Serb minority living in northern Kosovo and damage Kosovo-Serbia normalization talks.

Kosovo police closed the branches of the Postal Saving Bank the day before in line with the decision to ban the use of the Serbian dinar currency in the country. They also confiscated 1.6 million euros ($1.74 million) and some 75 million dinars ($700,000), which the judiciary will later decide what to do with.

Since Feb. 1, the government required areas dominated by the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo to adopt the euro currency, which is used in the rest of the country, and abolished the use of the Serbian dinar.

Pristina postponed the move for about three months, following pressure from the EU and the United States, concerned that the decision would negatively impact the ethnic Serb minority in northern Kosovo.

An EU statement from Brussels, which was emailed to The Associated Press, considered the move as “escalatory … against the spirit of normalization,” adding that such “uncoordinated actions" by Kosovo put chances of reconciliation “at risk.”

The State Department also was “disappointed” with Kosovo’s lack of coordination with international partners for the move, fearing it would escalate tensions.

“The United States reiterates its clear concerns about the implementation of the amended Central Bank of Kosovo regulation that restricts the import and use of the Serbian dinar in Kosovo,” said a State Department spokesperson in response to a query.

The British embassy in Pristina also warned that the move would “risk escalating tensions and making a long-term solution to the currency issue in Kosovo more difficult.”

The Postanska Stedionica Bank, or Postal Saving Bank, assured Tuesday that its clients’ deposits were safe, adding that ethnic Serb clients can still be provided with its services at the nearest branches or offices.

Serbian Prime Minister Milos Vucevic condemned the move and said in a statement Monday Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti launched “his latest act of savagery which directly jeopardizes the survival” of the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo.

“Why are Kosovo’s Serbs, the only community in Europe which cannot do business normally? Don't Kosovo Serbs have the right to salaries and pensions?” Vucevic said. He also accused the international community of tolerating Kurti's “pressure on Kosovo Serbs.”

Kosovar Finance Minister Hekuran Murati said everything was done in accordance with the law.

“There is justified suspicion that such activity was conducted without the proper financial license, something which is illegal and should suffer legal consequences,” said Murati at a news conference.

Murati said Pristina has offered alternatives but they were not accepted by Belgrade “because they have had other intentions, not aiming at helping citizens' life.”

Brussels and Washington are pressing both countries to implement agreements that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti reached in February and March last year.

The EU-facilitated normalization talks have failed to make progress, especially following a shootout last September between masked Serb gunmen and Kosovo police that left four people dead and ratcheted up tensions.

Most of Kosovo uses the euro, even though the country isn’t part of the EU. Parts of Kosovo’s north, populated mostly by ethnic Serbs, continue to use the dinar. Many Serbs there rely on the government of Serbia for financial support, often delivered in dinars in cash.

“In the continued absence of sustainable alternatives, this will have negative effects on the daily lives and living conditions of Kosovo Serbs and other communities eligible for financial transfers from Serbia,” the EU statement said.

Serbia's and Kosovo's chances of joining the EU one day are jeopardized by their refusal to compromise, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

The EU again urged Kosovo and Serbia to return to the negotiating table.

Serbian forces fought a 1998-99 war with ethnic Albanian separatists in what was then the province of Kosovo. About 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, died until a 78-day NATO bombing campaign pushed Serbian forces away. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, which Belgrade doesn’t recognize.

FILE - A man withdraws Serbian Dinars from a bank cash machine in northern Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, on Jan. 31, 2024. The European Union on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, reprimanded Kosovo over the unilateral closure of six branches of a Serbia-licensed bank, saying the move would negatively impact the life of the ethnic Serb minority living in northern Kosovo and damage Kosovo-Serbia normalization talks. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)

FILE - A man withdraws Serbian Dinars from a bank cash machine in northern Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, on Jan. 31, 2024. The European Union on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, reprimanded Kosovo over the unilateral closure of six branches of a Serbia-licensed bank, saying the move would negatively impact the life of the ethnic Serb minority living in northern Kosovo and damage Kosovo-Serbia normalization talks. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Jurrangelo Cijntje wants to keep his options open with the Seattle organization as a pitcher who switches between throwing right-handed and left-handed.

The 15th overall pick by the Mariners in Major League Baseball's amateur draft Sunday night, Cijntje said there was a reason he threw righty to lefty batters more often with Mississippi State in 2024.

“I had discomfort in my left side in the middle of the season,” Cijntje said. “I was talking to my pitching coach, and he was like, ‘You can just rest now from the left side and you can just focus on the right side.’ Everything is good now.”

The Mariners said they want Cijntje, who was a switch-pitcher for Curacao in the 2016 Little League World Series, to decide how to proceed as a righty and/or lefty as a pro. Cijntje says he would prefer to continue pitching from both sides.

According to his MLB.com draft profile, Cijntje was a natural left-hander who started throwing righty as a 6-year-old to mimic his father, Mechangelo, a former pro baseball player in the Netherlands.

There is some natural righty in him, though. Cijntje says he writes right-handed, while eating is somewhat like pitching — the 21-year-old uses both hands.

Cijntje agrees with scouting reports that say his fastball velocity is better right-handed, in the mid-90 mph range compared to low 90s from the left side. He throws with a lower arm angle as a lefty, which means relying more on off-speed pitches from that side.

Scouts also believe Cijntje's future might be as a right-hander, which is why going against the percentages by pitching right-handed against lefties more often this season was notable.

“On the right side, I have more feel just because I used the right side very much more than the left side because at some point I stopped using the left side,” Cijntje said. “But I can feel the left side is becoming better.”

Cijntje was drafted in the 18th round by Milwaukee in 2022 out of high school in the Miami area but chose to attend Mississippi State.

After a rough freshman season in 2023, Cijntje was 8-2 with a 3.67 ERA this past season. He pointed to a 15-5 win over then-defending champion LSU as a launching pad for where he ended up as one of the six prospects awaiting their fate at a rodeo arena in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards.

“I think after that, I started getting good outing after good outing,” Cijntje said. “For me, that was like, ‘You’ve got to be on your A game,' and don't back down about nothing.”

Now, Cijntje doesn't want to back down on pitching righty and lefty.

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB

Seattle Mariners Executive Vice President & General Manager Justin Hollander, far left, President, Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto, second from left, react after Senior Director, Amateur Scouting Scott Hunter, right, makes the selection for the team's first pick of Jurrangelo Cijntje, of Mississippi State, in the draft room at T-Mobile Park during the MLB baseball draft, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Seattle Mariners Executive Vice President & General Manager Justin Hollander, far left, President, Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto, second from left, react after Senior Director, Amateur Scouting Scott Hunter, right, makes the selection for the team's first pick of Jurrangelo Cijntje, of Mississippi State, in the draft room at T-Mobile Park during the MLB baseball draft, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Jurrangelo Cijntje is interviewed after being selected 15th overall by the Seattle Mariners in the first round of the MLB baseball draft in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, July 14, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Jurrangelo Cijntje is interviewed after being selected 15th overall by the Seattle Mariners in the first round of the MLB baseball draft in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, July 14, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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