(Bloomberg) -- Kosovo imposed Europe’s first rolling blackouts and the government urged people to cut consumption in a power crunch that has triggered criticism before talks in Brussels with wartime foe Serbia.
While insufficient power production has long plagued Kosovo, one of Europe’s poorest nations, the global power crisis is ratcheting up pressure on Prime Minister Albin Kurti after a flare-up with Serbia over Kosovo’s sovereignty escalated earlier this month.
Ally Albania helped Kosovo narrowly dodge blackouts on Monday, but distributor KEDS said Tuesday that insufficient production and a lack of funds to import electricity from abroad would require rotating power outages, the Pristina-based Koha news service reported, citing KEDS spokesman Viktor Buzhala.
Kosovo’s aging coal-fired plants can produce around 507 megawatt hours a day, far below the estimated demand of 750 megawatt hours, the Economy Ministry said.
“All citizens and businesses are asked to make economy measures and be as careful as possible in the use of electricity,” the ministry said in a statement Monday.
Talks in Brussels
The power shortages come as Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic prepare to meet in Brussels on Thursday for a new round of European Union-mediated negotiations aimed at resolving disputes between the neighbors.
They have made little progress in mending ties since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after a war that ended with NATO bombing that forced Serbian troops to pull out of the territory.
Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo as a country and accuses the government of mistreating minority Serbs who live there. Kurti has blamed Serbia for the tensions, which escalated at the end of July when ethnic Serbs in Kosovo blocked roads over a government plan to make Pristina-issued identification cards and license plates mandatory.
Kosovo has struggled to provide power to its citizens for more than a decade, and demand on its utilities has only risen since it won control of the power grid last year.
The situation is most pronounced in northern areas populated by ethnic Serbs, who had previously received electricity from Serbian power company EPS. Under an EU-brokered deal, EPS will resume supplying the minority after registering a special unit in Kosovo, under local regulations, although it has yet to start operations.
The power crisis has fueled criticism of Kurti, with opponents saying he is focusing too closely on confrontations with Serbia instead of dealing with domestic needs.
“It is irresponsible to lead the country in this way,” former Premier Avdullah Hoti said, according to Koha. “With the energy reductions, the situation of the first years after the 1998-1999 liberation war is returning.”
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