The Serbian army is on alert, and all eyes are on the Mitrovica bridge in the Serb-majority town of the same name in the north of Kosovo following Pristina’s decision to gradually implement new laws on license plates.
On Monday, a previously-postponed rule was to come into force which would mean all cars owned by Kosovo citizens must have number plates issued by Kosovo; a standard replicated amongst most countries in Europe.
The Mayor of North Mitrovica, Milan Radojevic, said they would not cause problems until the first fine is given.
“There will be no incidents or problems from our side until the first fine is pronounced, which according to Prishtina’s announcements, may happen on November 21. But we will see what the reality is on the ground,” he said.
The mayor added that he expects warnings to be given but that he hopes the international community will make Pristina give in.
“We hope that in these three weeks, the international community will put additional pressure on Pristina and reduce tensions. We are witnesses to the persistence of Albin Kurti to continue with the implementation of this decision”, said Radojević.
The problem is that ethnic Serbs living in the country’s north do not recognise Pristina’s authority and insist on using Serbian plates issued during the genocidal Slobodan Milosevic regime.
On Saturday, following much public and likely behind-the-scenes pressure, Prime Minister Albin Kurti announced the rule would be enforced in stages. First, a warning would be in place until 21 November, followed by a fine for those not complying until 21 January 2023. Then between January and 21 April, provisional plates will be placed over the others. Then from 21 April, any vehicle refusing to use legal plates will not be allowed to circulate.
The Minister of Defense of Serbia, Milosh Vučević, said on Tuesday that the Serbian army has been put on alert due to the situation in Kosovo, after the government’s decision, an order he said comes from President Aleksander Vucic.
On Tuesday, Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said local police had started implementing the plan already, warning those circulating with illegal plates of the new rule.
The implementation of this plan is expected to end on April 21 and, from that date, only cars with license plates of the Republic of Kosovo will be allowed in circulation.