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License plate management | Kosovo and Serbia agree to ease tensions

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(Brussels) Kosovo and Serbia agreed on Wednesday on steps to ease tensions over license plates, EU Foreign Minister Joseph Borell announced.

“I am delighted to announce that the negotiators [kosovar et serbe] have agreed, under the aegis of the EU, measures to avoid further escalation,” Joseph Borell tweeted.

Serbia and Kosovo will now consider the EU proposal on ways to normalize their relations, he said.

The dispute concerns some 10,000 members of the Kosovo Serb minority whose vehicles carry Serbian-issued plates.

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has decreed that they must be replaced in stages by April by Republic of Kosovo plates and intends to impose fines of 150 euros on offenders.

Subjected to intense international pressure and accused by the EU of being responsible for the blockage, Albin Kurti announced on the night of Monday to Tuesday that he had postponed this decision for 48 hours at Washington’s request.

“Serbia will stop issuing Serbian license plates bearing the names of Kosovar cities and Kosovo will cease all activity to replace them”, added Joseph Borrell, specifying that he would invite “in the coming days the two parties to consider the steps to come”.

The deal comes after Monday’s talks between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Mr Kurti broke down.

On Wednesday afternoon, several hundred Serbian women demonstrated in Mitrovica, an ethnically divided city in northern Kosovo, to denounce the decisions of the Pristina government, in particular on license plates, seen as a “ghettoization” of the Serbian minority.


PHOTO BOJAN SLAVKOVIC, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The city of Mitrovica remained divided between the predominantly Serb north and the predominantly Albanian south after the war between Serb forces and Albanian rebels (1998-99).

Mass resignations

In this regard, the demonstrators accused Albin Kurti of reigning “terror” and inflicting “inhuman treatment”, and marched in the streets of northern Mitrovica.

Some held up placards on which it was written “women united to liberate the ghetto” and “it is not a whim, I want peace”.

“Our goal is to bring peace, freedom and a peaceful childhood to our children,” Gordana Savic, head nurse at the Mitrovica hospital, told protesters.

The dispute over the plates angered Kosovo Serbs who resigned en masse from Kosovo institutions. Hundreds of police, judges, prosecutors and other officials have left their posts, causing a breakdown in the rule of law that raises fears of heightened tensions.

The city of Mitrovica remained divided between the predominantly Serb north and the predominantly Albanian south after the war between Serb forces and Albanian rebels (1998-99).

Belgrade refuses to recognize the independence proclaimed in 2008 by Kosovo. Kosovo’s Serb minority, which altogether numbers about 120,000, refuses its loyalty to Pristina with encouragement from Belgrade.



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