Will number plate row in Kosovo spark violence?
A bitter dispute between Kosovo and Serbia over car number plates threatens to erupt into violence, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned after attempts at mediation failed. The row was triggered by Kosovo's decision to start fining members of the country's Serb minority who refuse to give up their Belgrade-issued number plates.
No sign of compromise
Ukrayinska Pravda discusses why it is so difficult to reach an agreement:
“In return [for the further postponement of the fines], a visa-free scheme for Kosovars is to be introduced by 1 December 2023 (currently Kosovo is the only Balkan country that does not have a visa-free scheme with the EU). However, it doesn't look like this plan will go ahead. First, Kosovo Serbs will no longer be satisfied with the mere postponement of the date when the imposing of fines starts. They demand the abolition of the ban on Serb licence plates and the legalisation of the associations of Serb municipalities. And second, Pristina is not prepared to make concessions either, as they would seriously damage the image of the Kosovo government.”
Serbia must not block its path into EU
A solution to the situation in Kosovo is an important prerequisite for Serbia becoming an EU member, Peščanik insists:
“Serbia must accept a solution for Kosovo, either the one that has been offered or another, because its path into the EU is in great danger right now and already almost blocked. Also because of its brotherhood with Russia and because of its autocracy, as well as the broken institutions in a country destroyed by corruption and criminality. It cannot survive without its natural European environment and a treaty with the EU. EU membership is the best way forward for Serbia and the other former Yugoslav republics.”
Brussels must fulfil its responsibilities
Commenting in the daily paper Politika, lawyer Savo Manojlović stresses that the EU must take action:
“Although in recent years interethnic sparks in the Balkans have generally merely served electoral purposes, such sparks could also suffice to ignite the powder keg and escalate the violence. ... As a co-signatory of the Brussels Agreement [concluded in 2013 to normalise relations between Serbia and Kosovo], the EU is indisputably largely responsible for this situation. Serbia and Kosovo did not conclude the Brussels Agreement between themselves. Each of the parties signed it with the EU, which is therefore the guarantor, but also the contracting party directly responsible for the implementation and consequences of the agreement.”
Autonomous status for northern Kosovo
To ensure peace the real problems must be tackled, demands Balkan expert Andreas Ernst in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:
“The time for discussing car number plates, border formalities and other 'technical issues' is over. Because strictly speaking, these are never just technical but highly political issues which can only be resolved within the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement. ... The key to the agreement lies in northern Kosovo. An autonomous status must be negotiated for the Serbian population that is measured in such a way that they can govern themselves without affecting the functioning of the Kosovar state.”