Fourteen years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, some 50,000 northern Serbs are still using license plates and documents issued by Serbian authorities, refusing to recognize the Pristina government and its institutions.
Following tensions on Sunday and consultations with US and EU ambassadors, the government said it would postpone until September 1 a decision giving local Serbs 60 days to switch to Kosovo license plates and requiring the issuance of additional documents at the border to Serbian citizens, including those living in Kosovo without local papers.
But as gravel-filled trucks and heavy machinery continued to block roads leading to Brnjak and Jarinje border crossings in northern Kosovo on Monday morning, the government began issuing documents at Kosovo’s biggest border crossing. Shit.
“This decision will continue to be implemented until all barricades are lifted and the free movement of people and goods is ensured,” said Kosovo’s Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla.
Helicopters from KFOR, a NATO-led mission, flew over northern Kosovo, which is mostly populated by Serbs and directly linked to Serbia. Brnjak and Jarinje crossing points remained closed.
Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by over 100 countries, but not by Serbia or Russia.
A year ago, after local Serbs blocked the same roads in another row above license plates, the Kosovo government deployed special police forces and Belgrade flew fighter jets near of the border.
Tensions between the two countries remain high and Kosovo’s fragile peace is maintained by a NATO mission with 3,770 troops on the ground. Italian peacekeepers were visible in and around the northern city of Mitrovica on Sunday.
The two countries engaged in a European Union-sponsored dialogue in 2013 to try to resolve outstanding issues, but little progress has been made.