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License plate policy triggers border standoff between Kosovo and Serbia

The already tense relationship between Kosovo and Serbia has deteriorated because of a new Kosovar policy that replaces Serbian license plates of incoming vehicles with temporary local plates. Kosovo says that a deal that was reached with Serbia in 2016 has expired and therefore, only Kosovar license plates have been valid since the 20th of September. Kosovo also emphasized how Serbia has a similar policy of taking off Kosovo-registered license plates from vehicles that are entering Serbia.

As a response to the new policy, ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo have been blocking the road at two border crossings. Tensions in the border areas rose on the 20th of September when the Kosovar authorities send special police units to enforce the implementation of the license plate policy. Kosovo authorities stated that the police units were present to make sure that the crossing points remained up and running for pedestrians and drivers who are willing to use the Kosovo license plates. However, Serbia stated that the presence of the special police unit is a provocation and Serbian troops have been on high alert ever since. On 28 September Serbia’s army had raised its level of combat readiness along the borders on the orders of President Aleksandar Vucic.

De-escalation agreement

The European Union, which has been facilitating dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia since 2011, also urged both parties to exercise restraint. On the 29th of September the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called for reductions of the tensions. On the 30th of September the EU special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue announced that both parties agreed on an de-escalation agreement. Under the agreement Kosovo will retract its police units which will be replaced by NATO peacekeeping troops for a period of  approximately two weeks.


Sources: Al Jazeera AP News Balkan Insight B92 Euronews Politico RadioFreeEurope              
Photo source: Flickr