Despite a decision by the Pristina government not to renew an agreement with Belgrade that allows vehicles with Serbian licence plates to enter the country freely, cars from Serbia are still passing through without being stopped.
An agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on vehicle licence plates expired on Wednesday but the situation at the Merdare crossing point in northern Kosovo has not changed, despite the Pristina government’s announcement that it will not renew the deal.
Cars with Serbian plates passed freely into Kosovo on Thursday, Serbian-language media in Kosovo reported.
Kosovo citizens meanwhile had to continue removing their Kosovo-issued plates on entering Serbia, as they have done for years, as Serbia does not recognise either Kosovo or licence plates with the letters RKS, for Republic of Kosovo.
Artir Retkoceri, director of Adio Tours, a Kosovo passenger transport company whose buses often drive through Serbia, told BIRN that his company is not expecting any changes soon.
“At the border we must remove our [Kosovo-issued RKS] licence plates and take temporary paper licence plates from the Serbian police officials. These licence plates cost five euros and are valid for up to two months,” Retkoceri explained.
There are two types of plates in Kosovo, starting with KS (for Kosovo) and RKS (for Republic of Kosovo). Plates with the letters KS were issued under the former UN administration of Kosovo.
Under the agreement with Serbia, which expired on Wednesday, vehicles with KS number plates may freely enter Serbia, while those with RKS plates have to change them at the border and receive provisional paper plates. Vehicles with Serbian number plates can enter Kosovo freely, without extra procedures.
Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi told media on September 9 that Kosovo did not intend to renew the agreement.
“The agreement with Serbia did not bring benefit to 99 per cent of the citizens of Kosovo who were also forced to be subjected to torture by removing the licence plates and putting on temporary similar licence plates,” Bislimi said.
The government has not proposed an alternative to the agreement, and it is not clear whether it will demand that Serbia recognises Kosovo’s vehicle plates of face an entry bar on its vehicles.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti on Wednesday again called for full mutual reciprocity with Serbia, saying that “there is no equality without reciprocity”.
Kurti had pledged that he would take measures to ensure reciprocity within weeks of taking office in March this year, but none has been implemented yet.
The former Kosovo government issued a decision in mid-September 2020 to stop issuing new licence plates with the registration KS.
Bislimi told media on September 9 that there were only 2,147 vehicles in Kosovo that have licence plates starting with KS, which represents just one per cent of the total cars in the country.
BIRN contacted the Kosovo government to ask whether Serbian licence plates will not be accepted for entering Kosovo, or if Kosovo citizens who use the licence plates with the registration KS because they have business interests in Serbia will be compensated because they might no longer be able to enter the country, but received no answers by the time of publication.
16 September 2021 - 18:32