number plate dispute
According to the European Union, after months of tug-of-war, Serbia and Kosovo have agreed on a solution to the dispute over car license plates, possibly averting an imminent escalation of the conflict. “We have a deal,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Twitter late on Wednesday evening.
According to Borrell, Serbia will stop issuing number plates related to Kosovan cities and Kosovo will not take any further measures related to the re-registration of vehicles with old Serbian number plates. Borrell will invite the parties over the next few days to discuss next steps.
In recent months, the authorities in Prishtina have been pushing for the Serbian number plates in the country to be replaced. According to estimates, about 10,000 vehicles, especially in the predominantly Serbian northern Kosovo, still have corresponding license plates. From Tuesday, their owners should be fined 150 euros. After intervention by the US embassy, the Kosovar government postponed the entry into force of this regulation until Thursday. The current agreement makes the enforcement of the measure obsolete.
Hardened fronts to the end
On Monday, a summit meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti was unsuccessful. Negotiations led by EU-Kosovo representative Miroslav Lajcak have now brought about a breakthrough.
“I am very pleased that the EU-brokered Kosovo and Serbia’s chief negotiators have agreed on measures to avoid further escalation and to focus fully on normalizing their relations,” Borrell wrote. “Serbia will stop issuing number plates with the names of Kosovar cities, and Kosovo will refrain from further actions regarding the re-registration of vehicles.” The two sides are expected to discuss further steps in the next few days.
set of escalation levels
The authorities in Kosovo began implementing a regulation on November 1, which aims to replace Serbian car license plates with Kosovar ones by April 21. Initially, the Kosovan police only warned car owners, now they should also be punished.
The conflict had already escalated dangerously in the summer after the Kosovar government had questioned the validity of Serbian number plates in the country for the first time. Kosovo Serbs then blocked the border crossings to Serbia. After the stationing of special units of the Kosovan police, Serbia finally put the army on increased alert in the border region.
Kosovo, inhabited mostly by Albanians, unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia in early 2008. Belgrade does not recognize this move and continues to regard Kosovo as a southern Serbian province, as do the Serbs living there. Kosovo was placed under UN administration in 1999 to protect the Albanians living there from attacks by Serbian security forces.