(July 31st) Tensions at the #Kosovo #Serbia Border Over License Plate Law

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Kosovo delays plan for volatile north as tensions rise near Serbian border

July 31st 2022

The Kosovo government postponed implementation of a decision that would oblige Serbs in the north of the country to apply for car license plates issued by Pristina institutions after tensions rose between police and local communities. Late on Sunday protesters parked trucks filled with gravel and other heavy machinery on roads leading to two border crossings, Jarinje and Bernjak, in a territory where Serbs form a majority. Kosovo police said they had to close the border crossings. “The overall security situation in the Northern municipalities of Kosovo is tense,” Nato-led mission to Kosovo KFOR said in a statement. The statement said KFOR was “monitoring closely” and “prepared to intervene if stability is jeopardised”. In Moscow, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova blamed the heightened tension on what she called “groundless discriminatory rules” imposed by Kosovo authorities

Fourteen years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, 50,000 Serbs living in the north use license plates and documents issued by Serbian authorities, refusing to recognise institutions under the capital, Pristina. Kosovo has been recognised as an independent state by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Russia. The government of prime minister Albin Kurti had said it would give Serbs a transitional period of 60 days to get Kosovo license plates, one year after giving up trying to impose them due to similar protests. The government also decided that as of 1 August, all citizens from Serbia visiting Kosovo would have to get an extra document at the border to grant them permission to enter. A similar rule is applied by Belgrade authorities to Kosovars who visit Serbia. But following tensions on Sunday evening and consultations with EU and US ambassadors, the government said it would delay its plan for one month, and start implementation on 1 September. The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell welcomed the delay.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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Kosovo postpones new car number plate rules amid tensions

August 1st 2022

Kosovo’s government has postponed the implementation of new rules that would force people in majority ethnic-Serb areas to swap their Serbian-issued car number plates for Kosovan-issued ones. The rules were due to come into force at midnight on Monday. But on Sunday ethnic Serbs in the north barricaded roads and armed men fired shots in protest. The rules’ implementation has been delayed for a month following consultations with the US and EU. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, after years of strained relations between its Serb and mainly Albanian inhabitants. It has been recognised by the United States and major European Union countries, but Serbia, backed by its ally Russia, refuses to do so, as do most ethnic Serbs inside Kosovo.

Some 50,000 people living in majority Serb areas of the north use licence plates issued by Serbian authorities and refuse to recognise Kosovo institutions. The Kosovan government’s decision to introduce new rules, including replacing Serb license plates with Kosovo ones, led to clashes. Nato described the situation as “tense” as hundreds of ethnic-Serbs parked trucks, tankers and other vehicles near two key border crossings with Serbia in protest over the new rules, forcing the police to close the two crossings.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Nato ‘prepared to intervene’ amid rising tensions between Serbia and Kosovo

August 1st 2022

A Nato peacekeeping force has said it is “prepared to intervene” amid rising tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. The pledge comes as Kosovo police said they closed two border crossings in the volatile north after local Serbs blocked roads and fired shots at police in protest. Locals were enraged by an order to switch Serb car number plates to Kosovan ones within two months, sparking protests. Nato’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) said in a statement: “The Nato-led KFOR mission is monitoring closely and is prepared to intervene if stability is jeoparadised in accordance with its mandate coming from UN SC Resolution 1244 of 1999. KFOR will take whatever measures are necessary to keep a safe and secure environment in Kosovo at all times, in line with its UN mandate.” Fourteen years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, some 50,000 Serbs living in the north use number plates and documents issued by Serbian authorities, refusing to recognise institutions under the capital, Pristina. Kosovo has been recognised as an independent state by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Russia.

The government of prime minister Albin Kurti said it would give Serbs a transitional period of 60 days, starting on 1 August, to get Kosovo number plates, a year after giving up trying to impose them due to similar protests. The government added that as of 1 August, all citizens from Serbia visiting Kosovo would have to get an extra document at the border to grant them permission to enter. A similar rule is applied by Belgrade authorities to Kosovars who visit Serbia. The protesters parked trucks filled with gravel and other heavy machinery on roads leading to the two border crossings, Jarinje and Bernjak, in a territory where Serbs form a majority. As a consequence, Kosovo police said they had to close the border crossings. “We call on all citizens to use other border crossings,” police said on their Facebook page.

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SOURCE = The Independent

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Tensions Flare on Kosovo-Serbian Border Amid Protests and Gunfire

July 31st 2022

A dispute over license plates between the Balkan nations of Kosovo and Serbia, from whom Kosovo split 14 years ago, yielded protests and gunfire Sunday night, prompting fears that the violence could escalate as Western countries are focused on the war in Ukraine. Amid demonstrators who built barricades, unknown gunmen fired on Kosovo police officers along the restive northern border with Serbia on the eve of a new law requiring ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo to switch from Serbian license plates to Kosovar ones in the next two months. Many Serbs in Kosovo still use Serbian-issued plates, which the government considers illegal. Kosovo’s government had also said that beginning Monday, all Serbian ID and passports holders must obtain an extra document to enter Kosovo, just as Kosovars must do to enter to Serbia. No one was injured by the gunfire, but in response to the violence, the Kosovo police closed two northern border crossings. “The following hours, days and weeks may be challenging and problematic,” Kosovo’s prime minister, Albin Kurti, said in a video released on his social media channels.

Similar protests over license plates flared a year ago, but observers say that tensions are higher this time because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which consumes the focus of Kosovo’s most important ally, the United States, as well as that of the European Union. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign pushed out Serb forces from the former province. Serbia — as well as its key allies, Russia and China — still refuses to recognize Kosovo’s independence, and insists on protecting its ethnic Serb kin, who make up about 5 percent of Kosovo’s population of 1.8 million people. A little less than half of Kosovo’s Serb population lives in four northern municipalities bordering Serbia and many have been reluctant to recognize the authorities in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, preferring to live as though they were still part of Serbia.

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SOURCE = New York Times

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UN special representative urges all to avoid escalation in Northern Kosovo

August 1st 2022

Belgrade [Serbia], August 1 (ANI/Sputnik): The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) Caroline Ziadeh is concerned about the situation in northern Kosovo and is calling for the restoration of freedom of movement, a UNMIK representative told Sputnik. “The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK Caroline Ziadeh is following the developments in northern Kosovo with concern,” the representative said, adding that Ziadeh “calls for calm, restoration of freedom of movement and avoiding further escalation.” Kosovo police announced on Sunday that there had been shots in the direction of its officers amid the tensions in the disputed border town of Kosovska Mitrovica, but no casualties so far. Police shut down the Jarinje and Brnjak administrative crossing points and air raid sirens were heard in the town, where both Serbs and Albanians were gathering.

“I urge all to address issues in good faith through the EU-facilitated dialogue, to strengthen stability and security for all,” Ziadeh said commenting on the Kosovo tensions, as quoted by the UNMIK representative. Kosovo authorities announced on Friday that starting August 1 Serbian-issued documents will be invalid and their owners will receive temporary certificates when entering Kosovo. At the same time, Kosovo will begin mandatory re-registration of vehicles with Serbian license plates, which will affect Serbians in the northern part of Kosovo and several other towns. Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic has described this as an attempt to create “hell” for local Serbs. (ANI/Sputnik).

SOURCE = The Print

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