EU Defuses Tensions over Kosovo Car Number Plates

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In the deal, Borrell said Serbia would stop issuing licence plates with Kosovo cities’ denominations, and Kosovo would not demand that vehicles with Serbian plates be re-registered.

Kosovo and Serbia have reached an agreement on steps to defuse a row over Serbian car number plates, which had threatened to trigger violence between both parties.

In a tweet, European Union (EU) foreign policy Chief Josep Borrell expressed his pleasure, saying: “We have a deal!” He said both sides would strive to normalise relations, as Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move which Serbia has rejected.

Kosovo had threatened to start fining drivers from Thursday if they continued using number plates issued by Belgrade. However, Brussels talks resulted in a deal between both sides.

In the deal, Borrell said Serbia would stop issuing licence plates with Kosovo cities’ denominations, and Kosovo would not demand that vehicles with Serbian plates be re-registered.

On Monday, the EU chief had expressed exasperation over Kosovo’s refusal to accept the EU's proposed deal. However, Kosovo returned to negotiations under pressure from its key ally, the United States.

According to Borell, the agreement between both parties sounds identical to the EU proposal on the table earlier this week.

Kosovo authorities want the ethnic Serb minority to surrender their Serbian-issued plates, with the government in Pristina arguing that plates pre-dating the territory’s 1999 war for independence from Serbia can no longer be valid.

Kosovo police were due to impose fines of €150 (£130; $154) to those who have Serbian-issued plates.

The 50,000 Serbs in northern Kosovo only accept local Serb institutions, and there have been demonstrations against Pristina's licence plate policy.

Before the deal reached on Wednesday, Serbia insisted that vehicles crossing its border from Kosovo must have Serbian-issued stickers on their Kosovan plates.

With EU mediation, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic held talks in Brussels on Monday with Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

While Brussels talks resumed between Serbian official Petar Petkovic and Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi, Kosovo Serbs rallied again on Wednesday against Kurti's government.

In the divided town of Mitrovica, long a flashpoint between Kosovo’s Serbs and ethnic Albanians, hundreds of Serb women accused Pristina of trying to “ghettoize” the Serb minority. The women held placards saying: ‘We want Peace” and “Kurti, we will not give you our children.”