Serbia, Kosovo agree on license plates, to normalize relations

Brussels, Nov 23 (EFE).- Serbia and Kosovo on Wednesday agreed to end tensions on license plate policy to prevent “further escalation” and to “normalize their relations,” according to the European Union’s top official for foreign affairs, Spain’s Josep Borrell.

Borrell wrote on his official Twitter account that negotiators for the two adjacent Balkan nations “have agreed to avoid further escalation and to fully concentrate on the proposal on normalization of their relations.”

As per the agreement, Serbia will cease issuing license plates with the designations of Kosovo cities and Kosovo will halt further actions to re-register vehicles.

Borrell, who is also vice president of the European Commission, said that the EU had facilitated the negotiations and that talks are set to continue to work out additional bilateral steps.

He also thanked the EU’s envoy overseeing the talks, Slovakia’s Miroslav Lajcak, and the representatives of Serbia and Kosovo for the “hard work” they had put in to reach the accord.

Meanwhile, Lajcak expressed his gratitude to Republic of Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi Besnik and to the Serbian government’s head negotiator, Petkovic Petar, “for their constructive commitment” during the negotiations, which were undertaken in Brussels.

He also expressed his gratitude to US diplomats for their support in achievintg the agreement.

Lajcak also said on Twitter that now his nation and Serbia must continue their “intensive talks” about the EU proposal, backed by Germany and France, to fully normalize bilateral relations.

The license plate crisis had caused tensions between Serbia and its former province to skyrocket, whereupon the EU in mediating the dispute called upon the two parties for concrete commitments.

The focus of the dispute has been the license plates that Serbo-Kosovars use, which Serbia has wanted to issue but which Kosovo has claimed as its sovereign prerogative.

In recent weeks, the Kosovo government had decided to ban Serbian-issued license plates in response to Serbia’s earlier ban on Kosovo license plates.

Some 6,300 ethnic Serbs owning cars with plates held to be illegal in Kosovo were affected and were to be warned that the plates would be banned as of last Monday, although that ultimatum postponed for 48 hours after the US Embassy intervened.

After the deadline, Kosovo authorities would have fined those drivers for the following two months and they would only be permitted to drive with temporary local plates until April 21 and not allowed to drive at all after that date.

The dialogue to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from the larger nation in 2008, is among the “priorities” on Borrell’s agenda, the Spanish politician said.

Kosovo’s desire for independence led to a 1998-99 war in which about 13,000 people died, with Serbia launching a brutal crackdown in that then-province to quash a separatist rebellion by the territory’s ethnic Albanians.

NATO intervened militarily in the conflict and bombed Serbia in 1999 to bring the war to an end, however, Serbia – backed by China and Russia – has refused to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence, although the US and most European nations have recognized Kosovo as an independent country.



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