Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic slammed the Kosovo’s government’s latest decision regarding licence plates for Serbs living in northern Kosovo, describing the move as a bid to “expel Serbs, especially from the north of Kosovo and Metohija.”
Vucic said Kosovo planned to “make a new Storm,” referencing a 1995 Croatian army operation, codenamed Storm, that saw most Serbs flee Croatia.
“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 license plates but also their vehicle [in this way] they reckon that all the Serbs will leave,” he added.
On Wednesday, Kosovo said that all vehicles with licence plates issued in Serbia from June 10, 1999 to April 21, 2022 must get new RKS plates. The deadline for the change is September 30, 2022.
Vucic warned that the September deadline indicates that Kosovo is “planning a general attack on northern Kosovo by October 1 at the latest, which they will call whatever they want.”
Kosovo authorities also ruled that, effective immediately, “every person that presents themself to cross the state border with personal identification documents issued by Serbian authorities will be equipped at the border crossing points with a declaration form that temporarily replaces the usage of such document.”
Violeta Haxholli from the Kosovo-based think tank Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI) dismissed Vucic’s warnings, explaining that the Kosovo government was merely implementing the “points of the agreement on freedom of movement reached between Kosovo and Serbia in July 2, 2011.”
According to Haxholli, Serbia has always implemented the agreement on issuing temporary ID documents.
Even so, the decision is bound to be a headache for citizens of either state, where it “foresees additional procedures and waiting at the border for temporary documents.”
Kosovo, with its Albanian ethnic majority, declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia does not recognize the claim.
Instead, Serbia has operated a parallel state system for the Kosovo Serb minority, with its own police departments, courts and municipal offices in Kosovo’s far north. This has included the issuing of Serbian licence plates for Kosovo towns and cities.
In 2011, Kosovo and Serbia reached an agreement whereby Kosovo would issue licence plates marked both “RKS” and “KS” (Kosovo). Aimed at encouraging Serbs in Kosovo’s north to start using Kosovo-issued licence plates, the dispute has instead evolved and escalated over the past decade.
Photo by Andy Mabbett via Wikimedia