The difficult relations between Kosovo and Serbia threaten to become strained again. The meeting that the leaders of both countries have held in Brussels with the mediation of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, has failed. The new extension in the enrollment crisis reached this past summer ends at dawn from Monday to Tuesday and it has not been possible to extend it. “We presented a proposal that could have avoided this risky situation. President [serbio Aleksandar] Vucic accepted it, but unfortunately the Prime Minister [kosovar Albin] Kurti did not do it ”, Borrell summed up at the end of eight hours of meetings, as he himself has detailed with a tone in which harshness and pessimism about the situation were mixed.
It has been more than a year since the tuition crisis between Pristina and Belgrade broke out, the last chapter of a very difficult and violent relationship in recent decades. This episode began when the Kosovo government, which declared its unilateral independence from Serbia in 2008, decided to demand that license plates issued by Belgrade no longer be used on vehicles belonging to the Kosovo Serb minority. The tension, which broke out in September 2021 and in August of this year as a result of this decision, was drawn with two extensions for the entry into force. The last one ends and Kurti, aware that the international situation is not in favor of Serbia, Russia’s traditional ally, is not willing to sign another one without compensation.
The lack of agreement once again threatens a new escalation of tension: “The dispute over license plates has escalated. Kosovo had decided to start imposing fines from November 22, that is, at midnight tonight, for those who have not re-registered their vehicles,” Borrell said. “As a consequence, Kosovo Serbs have withdrawn from institutions in northern Kosovo. And that means that around 600 police officers have left their uniforms. Judges and local administration staff have also resigned. Currently, less than 50 Kosovar Albanian police officers are in the region’s police stations, which is certainly not enough”, summed up the head of European diplomacy.
All this has caused the emergency meeting on Monday that has ended in failure. “There is an important responsibility [del lado de ambos líderes] for the failure of today’s talks and for any escalation and violence that may occur on the ground in the days that follow,” Borrell warned. Next, he has demanded “that Kosovo immediately suspend other stages related to the re-registration of vehicles in the north of Kosovo.” And he has demanded that Serbia suspend the issuance of new license plates with the names of the cities of Kosovo.
Spoke to @JosepBorrellF. We are disappointed that it was not possible to resolve the license plate dispute. Now is the time for responsibility & pragmatic solutions. Escalation must be avoided. @NATO_KFOR remains vigilant.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) November 21, 2022
This call has been joined by the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, who, after the marathon of meetings on Monday, has had a telephone conversation with Borrell. “Disappointed that a solution to the enrollment crisis has not been possible. Now is the time for responsibility and pragmatic solutions. Climbing should be avoided. KFOR is vigilant”, the Norwegian pointed out on Twitter, with a final reference to the military force that the Alliance has deployed on the ground to intervene between the two parties in the event of a conflict. The EU also has a mission deployed in the area, EULEX.
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Also at the end of the meeting, several of the political leaders in Pristina pointed out on Twitter that Kosovo would have proposed to talk about the platform presented by the EU in September, backed by Germany and France, which comes to advance in the recognition de facto from Kosovo. “Strangely, this was rejected,” said the Kosovar ambassador, Agron Bajrami.
At urgent dialogue meeting called by @JosepBorrellF, #Kosovo proposed to suspend further phases of plate conversion, in exchange of Serbia stop issuing illegal plates & EU starting the process of talks based on latest proposal backed by GER & FRA.
Strangely, this was refused!
— Agron Bajrami (@AgronBajrami) November 21, 2022
Other sources pointed out that in the meeting Serbia would have set as a condition that they also advance in the development of the agreements reached 10 years ago, such as the constitution of a commonwealth of municipalities in the Kosovar Serb zone. This would have been rejected by Pristina and the blockade would have been reached, according to this version.
For its part, the Foreign Action Service added that “any statement that the EU is giving up its proposal to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia, which is supported by Germany, France and the United States, is false. ” “The EU continues to fully support this proposal and encourages the parties to accept the text as soon as they are ready to demonstrate to the international community that they are capable of opting for European solutions,” he added.
Translation done with the free version of the translator www.DeepL.com/Translator