From: Bledar Qalliu
Kosovo, Serbia Discuss Permanent Solution to License Plates Dispute 

A Kosovo-Serbia working group is holding its first EU facilitated meeting in Brussels today to find a permanent solution to the license plate dispute. 

The establishment of the group was agreed last month in Brussels. It followed several weeks of escalated tensions at the Kosovo-Serbia border, with Serbia and Kosovo Serbs challenging Kosovo’s demand that Serbian-licensed cars pay the same tax upon entering the country as Kosovo cars do when crossing to Serbia.

Serbian List, the main Serb political party in Kosovo, as well as the government in Serbia, responded by rallying Kosovo Serbs to block the roads leading to the border. Belgrade sent heavy military vehicles close to the border, flew fighter jets nearby, and threatened NATO and Kosovo that it would intervene in its neighboring country if protesting Serbs were harmed.

Kosovo maintained that its decision to keep in place the same tax as Serbia stemmed from its sovereignty and the basic principle of reciprocity in international relations.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo and claims to treat it as its province.

The parties convened in Brussels to discuss a solution, and the two sides agreed to place stickers over license plates at the border to cover flags and country names. In addition, barriers on the two roads leading to border checkpoints were removed.

The deal stipulated also the establishment of a joint working group, tasked with finding a permanent solution to the issue. Its first meeting was set for today, while the deadline for a solution falls a couple of weeks after general elections in Serbia.

The two countries have implemented reciprocal measures on cars at the border since the September agreement without any issue.

Today’s meeting is not expected to yield any tangible results.

Given the approaching Serbian elections and how sensitive any Kosovo-related issue are to Serbian politics, the government of president Aleksandar Vucic will likely drag all talks until election day, possibly agreeing to a solution only once elections are over and under growing EU pressure.

Meanwhile, the government of Albin Kurti in Prishtina seems steadfast in its prioritizing of Kosovo’s sovereignty during talks with Serbia, and would hardly agree to any solution that could be seen as non-reciprocal or downplay Kosovo’s ability to take independent decisions.