PRISTINA (Reuters) – Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Wednesday his country and neighbouring Serbia should start recognising each other’s car licence plates to allow free movement of people and goods and ease border tensions.
Serbs in the north of Kosovo have blocked roads near border crossings with Serbia since Monday after authorities barred cars with Serbian licence plates from coming into Kosovo.
Kosovo police are forcing all drivers from Serbia to remove or hide their car plates and use temporary printed registration details that are valid for 60 days.
Serbia, which lost control over Albanian-majority Kosovo after the 1999 NATO bombing campaign, refuses to recognise the independence of its former province and has not allowed Kosovo licence plates on its territory since 2008.
Kurti said both Pristina and Belgrade should start recognising each other’s plates.
“Our public offer is very practical and generous and let’s both Kosovo and Serbia remove temporary plates in order to allow the citizens to move freely and with as little delay as possible,” Kurti said in a government session.
There was no immediate reaction from Belgrade to Kurti’s proposal.
The two countries in 2013 committed to an EU-sponsored dialogue to resolve outstanding issues but little progress has been made. Both the United States and the European Union have called Pristina and Belgrade to ease tensions and find a compromise.
Around 50,000 Serbs who live in the north of Kosovo, which borders Serbia, refuse to recognise Pristina’s authority.
More than 13,000 people are believed to have died during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo, when the southern province was still part of Serbia under the rule of late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Fighting ended after NATO air strikes against Milosevic’s forces, and Kosovo is now an independent country.
Kosovo’s independence is recognised by some 110 countries including the United States, Britain and most Western countries, but not by Russia, Serbia’s traditional ally, and five EU member states.
Kosovo’s north has witnessed many ethnic clashes since the end of the war.
Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Nick Macfie
Photo Kosovo Police Special Operations Unit secure the area near the border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia in Jarinje, Kosovo, 22 September 2021. Kosovo Serbs in the northern part of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica set up road barricades with trucks and cars to protest against the Kosovo government’s entry ban on vehicles with Serbian registration plates. EPA-EFE/VALDRIN XHEMAJ