A car belonging to a Kosovo Serb police officer was set alight on Tuesday in an attack that the Kosovo government says is linked to the ongoing licence plate dispute with Serbia.
According to a Kosovo government minister, unknown assailants set fire to the police officer’s car as revenge for the officer swapping his Serbian-issued licence plates for Kosovo plates.
The incident appears to mark the third time that a Kosovo Serb has been targeted for complying with a Kosovo government decree giving Kosovo Serbs until the end of September to swap over to Kosovo-issued licence plates.
The Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said “parallel structures” were to blame for the attack, namely in a mainly Serb pocket of north Kosovo with strong ties to Belgrade.
“Today, another Serb officer of the Kosovo police has been attacked by illegal structures which burned his vehicle after he registered it with legal licence plates of the Republic of Kosovo,” Svecla wrote on Facebook.
Svecla also accused the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of pursuing a policy of intimidation against Serbs in Kosovo.
Serbia does not recognise the independence of Kosovo, its former southern province. For years, Serbia has put pressure on Kosovo Serbs to resist efforts for integration made by the Kosovo government.
Svecla said that the property of two other Kosovo Serbs had been damaged in September after the individuals swapped over to Kosovo licence plates. One of the victims was also a police officer.
The licence plate dispute between Kosovo and Serbia has been ongoing for more than a decade. In late August this year, Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti once again failed to reach an agreement on how to manage the issue.
Earlier this month, local Serbs blocked border crossings in protest after Kosovo police began confiscating Serbian-issued licence plates for residents of Kosovo.
In June, Vucic slammed the deadline decision by the Kosovo government, describing it as part of an effort to “expel Serbs, especially from the north of Kosovo and Metohija.”
“Their Interior Ministry will campaign to persuade Serbs [in Kosovo] to register with so-called RKS [Republic of Kosovo] licence plates,” Vucic said.
“If [Serbs] are not convinced, they will take away not only their licence plates but also their vehicle [in this way] they reckon that all the Serbs will leave,” he added.
In 2011, Kosovo and Serbia agreed that Kosovo would issue licence plates marked both “RKS” and “KS” (Kosovo).
Photo via Wikimedia