'Don't confuse sports with politics,' Kosovo tells Bosnia

Kosovo accuses Bosnia of delaying visas for its basketball team, scheduled to compete in Euro championship in Sarajevo.

    Kosovo's U-16 basketball team did not receive their visas on time to compete in the European Championship in Sarajevo [Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto/ Getty Images]
    Kosovo's U-16 basketball team did not receive their visas on time to compete in the European Championship in Sarajevo [Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto/ Getty Images]

    Kosovo has accused Bosnian authorities of mixing sports with politics after its basketball team were not issued visas in time to enter Bosnia and compete in the U-16 European Championship that is currently taking place in Sarajevo.

    Kosovo's team was scheduled to play against the Bosnia and Herzegovina side on Thursday, the first day of the tournament which runs until August 16.

    However the Kosovo Basketball Federation (FBK) told local media that by late Wednesday it still had not received an answer from Bosnia's nearest embassy in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, about the status of the team's visa applications.

    "Despite the fact that we have sent all the necessary documents in time, we only received a green light from the embassy to apply on Tuesday, only after we informed [International Basketball Federation] FIBA that things are not going in the right direction," Elvira Dushku, secretary-general of FBK told Balkan Insight.

    Bosnia and Serbia are the only two countries from former Yugoslavia that have not recognised Kosovo's independence from Belgrade, which it declared in 2008.

    Bosnia has not recognised Kosovo primarily because ethnic Serb politicians align themselves with the positions of Serbia. 

    Players from Kosovo need to apply for visas to enter Bosnia. Kosovo reciprocated the mandatory visa application measure for Bosnians in 2014.

    In a statement on Wednesday, Kosovo's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Bosnian authorities not to "confuse sports with politics".

    "Kosovo became a full member of FIBA more than three years ago and trying to place political obstacles with the obvious purpose of jeopardising Kosovo's participation in this sports event up to the last minute, not only violates the basic European principle of freedom of movement, but also FIBA's own rules," the ministry stated.

    'Provocative' Serbian train halted at Kosovo border

    Bosnian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak told Bosnian news website Klix on Wednesday that the ministry did not deny visas for the team - rather the visas were still being processed.

    "According to our [procedures] the estimated time to reply is three days. This morning we sent a letter to the Basketball Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (KSBIH) and we expect its steering committee to send us an answer and to confirm that they completely stand behind this competition and its organisation," Crnadak said.

    "It's important for us to have this kind of confirmation because one of the participants is Kosovo, which Bosnia and Herzegovina hasn't recognised [as a country]."

    However, according a KSBIH statement cited by local media on Thursday, the team's visas were ready; all that was missing was consent from Crnadak.

    "In May of this year a contract was signed with FIBA to hold the U-16 championship in Sarajevo. KSBIH made the necessary measures in order for the Kosovo representation to receive their visas on time to enter our country," KSBIH's statement read.

    "From the Bosnian embassy in Macedonia, we received the notification that the visas are ready and that they're expecting consent from the Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak so that they can issue [the visas] to the Kosovo representation." 

    Recognising Kosovo

    Eric Gordy, a professor at UCL's School of Slavonic and East European studies told Al Jazeera that the underlying issue at hand of Thursday's episode is Bosnia's refusal to recognise Kosovo.

    POEPLE AND POWER: New born Kosovo

    "This is a a typical pattern in cross-border ethnic communities, in which the Serb politicians in Bosnia present themselves as 'Serbier' than the Serbs in Serbia, just as the Croat politicians in Bosnia present themselves as 'Croatier' than the Croats in Croatia," Gordy said.

    "The absence of recognition leads to a number of difficulties involving travel, but these difficulties become especially pronounced at events like sporting competitions, where the participation of a team from a state can be taken as implying recognition of the state." 

    In May, Kosovo's karate team headed to the European championships in Novi Sad, Serbia, were stopped at the border by Serbian police who told them that they were banned from entering and were turned away.

    Philosopher and critic Shkelzen Maliqi from Kosovo was denied entry to Serbia at the border in June, with no reason provided according to Kosovo's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    He was traveling with a group who were to take part in a cultural activity in Belgrade titled "20 years beyond" about cultural cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.