The Jarinje border crossing was blocked by protesting Kosovo Serbs in September 2021. Photo: BIRN/Valon Fana.

Serbian Proposals to Resolve Kosovo Border Row ‘Rejected in Brussels’

A Serbian official said Kosovo dismissed its proposals on identity documents and vehicle licence plates for Kosovo Serbs aimed at resolving a row that has sparked repeated protests at the two countries’ border.

The director of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, Petar Petkovic, said on Friday that the Serbian delegation that met Kosovo officials in Brussels this week had offered two proposals to resolve the simmering dispute over identity documents and vehicle licence plates for Kosovo Serbs, but both were rejected.

“[Kosovo Prime Minister Albin] Kurti categorically refused,” Petkovic said.

Petkovic, who also was part of the delegation to Brussels on Thursday, said that when it comes to the declaration needed to enter and exit Kosovo, Serbia said it is ready to accept that when citizens of Serbia who live in Serbia enter Kosovo, “they are issued an entry-exit document at the administrative crossing point by Pristina”.

The issuing of such as document was agreed between Belgrade and Pristina in 2011 but has not yet been implemented yet.

But Petkovic said it must not apply to Serbs who live in Kosovo.

“This was not agreed for them and no one has the right to nullify their Serbian identity card, to demand from them that at the crossing they can only receive this document with which they will move into Kosovo and Metohija,” Petkovic told media in Belgrade.

The Kosovo government decided in June that anyone seeking to cross the state border using personal IDs issued by the Serbian authorities will now be issued temporary declaration forms valid for 90 days that replace their Serbian document.

The decision reciprocates Serbian authorities’ non-recognition of Kosovo-issued IDs, introducing the same measure as Serbia implements towards Kosovo citizens.

Petkovic said that when it comes to the disputed issue of vehicle licence plates, Serbia suggested that all plates that Serbia has issued for cities and towns in Kosovo should be changed to neutral ‘KS’ plates, as previously issued by the UN’s Kosovo mission UNMIK.

“We have now proposed, sticking to the [2011] agreement, that all vehicle owners with KM plates be re-registered to KS status-neutral plates, UNMIK plates,” Petkovic said.

The dispute over licence plates escalated in June when the Kosovo government announced that drivers of all vehicles with plates issued by Serbia from June 10, 1999 until April 21, 2022 would have until September 30, 2022, to get RKS plates.

RKS stands for the Republic of Kosovo, but Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as independent.

The changes announced by the Kosovo government triggered renewed tensions again two weeks ago when Kosovo Serbs set up barricades and Kosovo police closed the country’s border crossings.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti discussed the issue at their unsuccessful meeting on Thursday but found no solution.

Finding a solution to the licence plate issue has proved problematic for more than a decade.

In 2011, Kosovo and Serbia reached an agreement under which Kosovo would issue licence plates marked both ‘RKS’ for the Republic of Kosovo and, in a concession to Serbia’s refusal to recognise its former province as a state, ‘KS’, denoting simply ‘Kosovo’.

In 2016, Kosovo extended the validity of KS plates for another five years but made the Serbian-issued licence plates for Kosovo cities illegal. Due to this, it was almost impossible to register such vehicles with RKS plates.

After the agreement expired in September 2021, the Kosovo government decided not to extend it, and police started to confiscate Serbian-issued licence plates.

The change angered local Serbs who blocked border crossings, until the dispute was temporarily eased by introducing a sticker system. A more permanent solution was supposed to be found by April 21 2022, but this did not happen.

24/08/2022 - 09:45

24 August 2022 - 09:45

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