Tensions Rise Again Along Serbia-Kosovo Border

Tensions Rise Again Along Serbia-Kosovo Border As Protesters Block Crossings

July 31, 2022 18:40 GMT

Ethnic Serbs block roads a road in northern Kosovo on July 31.

Ethnic Serbs block roads a road in northern Kosovo on July 31.

Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo blocked roads near two key border crossings with Serbia as tensions rose in the region a day before two Kosovar government regulations involving Serbian-issued license plates and ID documents come into force.

The Kosovar government has said that on August 1 travelers arriving from Serbia will have their Serbian-issued documents exchanged for new entry-exit identification documents issued by Pristina, valid for three months.

The policy matches a long-standing practice that Belgrade employs for Kosovo citizens visiting Serbia.

In addition, a new regulation regarding license plates will also come into effect on August 1.

Ethnic Serbs in the north of Kosovo have been using car plates issued by Serbian institutions since the war in 1999 with acronyms of Kosovo cities, such as KM (Kosovska Mitrovica), PR (Prishtina), or UR (Urosevac).

The government in Kosovo regards the plates as illegal but has tolerated them in four northern municipalities with Serb majorities.

Kosovo will now require those plates to be replaced by Kosovar-issued plates with the “RKS” acronym for Republic of Kosovo. Car owners will have until the end of September to make the changes.

Late on July 31, Kosovo police announced that they had closed border crossings in Jarinje and Brnjak for travel and vehicle circulation because of the blockades set up by protesters.

“All citizens are notified to use other border points for circulation,” Kosovar police said.

The dispute over vehicles erupted in September 2021 after Kosovar authorities ordered all drivers entering Kosovo from Serbia to use temporary, 60-day, printed license plates in response to measures in Serbia against drivers from Kosovo that have been in place since 2008, when the country declared independence from Belgrade.

At that time, Serbs from northern Kosovo blocked the Jarinje and Brnjak crossings with vehicles and makeshift barricades, while Kosovo’s government sent in police units and Serbian military jets and helicopters buzzed the border in a show of force.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence or its right to impose rules and regulations such as registering cars and trucks. Most EU countries recognize Kosovo, though Russia and China, allies of Serbia, do not.

The EU has tried to broker a dialogue between the two Balkan neighbors for over a decade, but so far the efforts have failed to achieve a normalization of ties.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti has said Kosovo will formally apply to become a member of the European Union by the end of 2022 despite concerns over tensions with Serbia, also an EU aspirant.

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