Amid the looming license plate deadline, EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell has called an emergency meeting between Kosovo and Serbia on Monday (21 November), EURACTIV has learnt.
The meeting, which is likely to see Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbia’s President Aleksander Vucic meet in Brussels on Monday (21 November) morning, is set to focus on reducing tensions between the two countries.
The move comes as a deadline to start implementing fines for citizens not displaying car registration plates issued by Kosovo institutions, the next stage in a gradual rollout that will see a total ban by April is due to expire on the same day.
Since 1 November, when Pristina started implementing the step-by-step plan for the re-registration of cars with illegal Serbian license plates, tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have increased.
With the pressure to find agreement before the expiration of the deadline, EU officials fear the region could otherwise slide back into ethnic violence.
Last week, the EU side held talks with the Kosovo representatives in Brussels, but Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi said no license plate solution had been found so far.
On Friday (18 November), EU foreign affairs spokesperson Peter Stano said there was no date, but it would happen “very soon”.
“We have urgently invited both parties to Brussels to find a European solution, a European solution to the current situation, which is among the most serious since 2013, and this is the goal, to have them in Brussels to discuss the solution”, Stano said.
Last week, Borrell made clear that should the parties not find an agreement by Monday, the region could be on the brink of a dangerous crisis, calling both sides to fulfil their obligations under the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
“Unnecessary and counterproductive tensions” between Kosovo and Serbia “are reaching a very, very dangerous level” and create a situation where “we are unhappily on the edge of another crisis,” Borrell said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers last week.
Currently, EU police officers are undertaking patrols in northern Kosovo after some 600 police officers, alongside judges, prosecutors, and other state workers, from the Serb minority quit over the car license plate row.
The 130 officers from Poland and Italy – who patrol in the municipalities where there is no local police presence – have no powers of arrest, but the EU wants their presence to fill the security vacuum.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said there was no surprise the EU called the meeting but that he did not see any reason for Vucic to attend.
He also issued a veiled threat of possible conflict if a solution was not found.
“It is necessary that someone comes to senses to prevent any possible incidents and sparks that can ignite the entire region. This means that it is necessary to postpone the decision on the license plates,” he added.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]