No agreement on the number plates issue after Serbian and Kosovan diplomats meet in Brussels

Serbia and Kosovo have not been able to agree on the recognition of Serbian vehicle registration plates on the territory of Kosovo, according to the Serbian tabloid newspaper Blic, referring to a source familiar with the negotiations. 

The news came after meetings, in Brussels on 21 November, involving the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti.

Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Miroslav Lajčak, the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, met with Kurti and then with Vučić in separate meetings. After this, they had a trilateral meeting together.

Kosovo had decided to start issuing fines from 22 November’

Why were the negotiations held?

Kosovo has decided to start fining people with Serbian number plates from 21 November. Serbia is against this and wants to postpone the decision, as the country did before this August.

What are the positions of the two sides?

Serbia wants to postpone the implementation of Kosovo’s decisions to punish all those who have not re-registered their vehicles with Kosovo number plates and is asking for the Community of Serb-majority municipalities to be formed.

Kosovo refuses to accept this. Kosovo Prime Minister is also against forming the Community of Serb majority municipalities. However, this was agreed in 2013 in the Brussels agreement.

The EU’s position is to avoid tension or escalation of conflict.

And this happens only three months after the last crisis meeting – from crisis to crisis. This time, it is even worse than in August, when I had to come to Brussels in the middle of August to avoid the previous crisis. Since August, the dispute over licence plates has worsened. Kosovo had decided to start issuing fines from 22 November – it means midnight tonight – for those who have not re-registered their vehicles,’ Josep Borrell said after eight hours of negotiations with the countries’ representatives.

What is the Brussels agreement?

Its formal name is the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations. It is an agreement created to normalise relations between the governments of Kosovo, which is partially recognised as a sovereign country, and Serbia. Due to the first six clauses of the Brussels agreement, the first should create the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities.

Why is it an issue for Kosovo and Kosovo Serbs?

Kosovo is home to a minority of some 50,000 ethnic Serbs, who have yet to recognise the state’s authority in everyday bureaucratic matters, for example, number plates, after ten years of Serbia’s rule.

Why did Kosovo decide to start the punishment now?

The state has been postponing the requirement for re-registration of cars for many years because of the Kosovo Serbs protests. For instance, in August, the United States Ambassador in Kosovo, Jeffrey Hovenier, succeeded in getting the country to postpone the decision to introduce new documents and number plates. This time, Kosovo decided not to make any more concessions.

Text: Nataliia Huchok
Collage: © Nataliia Huchok
Photo: Artur Roman via Pexels