Kosovo will ignore Western countries’ calls for a 10-month delay in implementing a rule that allows ethnic Serbs to change their car license plates to local ones. This move could exacerbate ethnic tensions, Kosovo’s prime minister said on Tuesday (25 October).
Local Serbs living in the north of Kosovo resisted the government’s attempt to force its Serb minorities to change their car plates.
The United States and European Union are the main backers of Kosovo and have asked Albin Kurti publicly to postpone the rule for 10 more months in order to avoid ethnic tensions. The government had given the Serbs 60 days to obtain the new plates starting September 1, and ending at the end October.
Kurti, who was referring to Slobodan Milosevic, said that “we already delayed the deadline…the final date is 31 October”.
Kurti stated that there are approximately 10,000 motorists who need the ability to change their old car registrations. This is because they were registered before 1999, when Kosovo was still part of Serbia.
More than 13,000 people were killed in the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo. The conflict occurred when Serbia’s southern province was still under Milosevic’s control.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008. However, around 50,000 ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo refused to recognize Pristina’s authority and are still under control by Serbia.
Since 1 September, when Pristina tried to force it to rule over plates, talks between Serbia and Kosovo have failed to reach a resolution under the auspices the US envoys and the European Union.
NATO has approximately 3,700 peacekeepers present on the ground and has asked both countries to seek a solution, not add more tension to an already troubled region.
When asked by reporters what will happen on 1 November, when the deadline expires, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said that “difficult times are ahead of our people”.
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