Emergency talks between the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia convened today in Brussels to try to defuse tensions in the region have failed. The disappointing outcome could lead to a new outbreak of violence in the region, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, has warned after eight hours of fruitless meetings. If an episode of violence occurs in the coming days, it will be the “responsibility” of both leaders, said Borrell, who has not hesitated to point to Kosovo as the main cause of the blockade in the face of the license plate crisis, the last identity clash between the two territories.
“After many hours of discussions, since eight in the morning, the two parties have not reached an agreement,” Borrell announced at four in the afternoon in Brussels. “For the sake of transparency, I want to explain that we presented a proposal that President Vucic did accept but, unfortunately, Prime Minister Kurti did not,” said the head of European diplomacy, who has disgraced the Kosovar leader for non-compliance of its international commitments acquired in 2013, five years after its declaration of independence.
From today, Kosovo could fine cars with Serbian license plates in Kosovo
Today the last extension accepted by Kosovo to the new regulations that oblige all cars with Serbian license plates in the north of Kosovo, the area where the Serb minority lives, to re-register them to carry Kosovar plates expired. The European Union has spent weeks unsuccessfully mediating between the parties and warning that the situation is highly dangerous.
In protest of the Kosovar government’s decision to ban Serb license plates, hundreds of Serb police officers and representatives in Kosovar institutions, which they entered as part of the EU-sponsored normalization dialogue, decided to resign two weeks ago. Faced with this situation of power vacuum, Brussels has sent reinforcements to its police mission in Kosovo, but its mandate is very limited and cannot replace the functions of local forces, Borrell recalled. Theoretically, from this midnight the Kosovar police can impose fines of 150 euros on cars that do not comply with the new regulations, which should have entered into force in April. The fear is that its application will lead to violent episodes.
In order to “avoid an escalation”, Borrell has “solemnly” demanded that the Government of Kosovo suspend “immediately” the application of the new law on license plates and the Serbian executive, that it stop issuing plates with the names of cities located in Kosovo, especially those bearing the initials KM, for Kosovska Mitrovica, the region populated by the Serb minority, a point that the Belgrade representative was willing to accept. Speaking to the Serbian press after the meeting, Vucic said that “sleepless nights and certainly many difficult days” lie ahead.
Press statement by @JosepBorrellF following the high level meeting of the #Belgrade–#pristine dialogue on 21 November 2022 in #Brussels.
“We can not continue like this: this vicious circle of crisis and deadlines must stop.” https://t.co/atKehpDb8V
— EU Council TV News (@EUCouncilTVNews) November 21, 2022 “>
Although Brussels claims to get out once and for all of the vicious circle of crises and deadlines, the acceptance of the terms of this political truce would have allowed, once again, to gain time to resolve the conflict over registration fees and advance in the normalization of relations, Borrell has reiterated, who has warned that the EU and the United States are going to draw “conclusions” about the situation in which the process has taken place. “I will inform the member states and our partners about the conduct of the different parties and the lack of respect for international legal obligations, and I must say this particularly about Kosovo,” Borrell stressed.
“I know this sends a very negative political signal” but “I have made it very clear to the leaders that if EU membership is their goal, which they have both committed to, we expect them to act accordingly.” The background to the tuition crisis, which has been almost two years in the making, is the discussion between Belgrade and Pristina over the creation of an association of Serbian municipalities, a crucial point of the 2013 agreement. Pristina has refused to honor this point of agreement. the pacts, alleging that Belgrade claims for this community an excessive level of autonomy that could compromise the functionality of the Kosovar state.
Serbia is the only candidate country that does not support EU sanctions against Russia
The incentive to advance together on their way to the European Union to, one day, enter the community club together seems to have ceased to be enough for both parties in recent times. Given the worsening political climate in the region, this autumn France and Germany have presented a proposal for the normalization of relations which, according to information published in the local press, would allow Serbia to receive more funds to prepare and speed up its entry into the EU as well as Kosovo, whose independence it should recognize in return.
After fifteen decades of waiting, the credibility of the enlargement process, however, is at a minimum in the western Balkans, which are also now under pressure due to the reverberations of the war in Ukraine. Serbia is the only EU candidate country that has not sided with Western sanctions against Russia in response to the neighboring country’s invasion and has made it clear in recent weeks that it does not intend to withdraw its support for the Kremlin.