“Unnecessary and counterproductive tensions are reaching a very, very dangerous level,” said EU High Representative for Security Josep Borrell, as cited by Euractiv.
Borrell went on to add that the EU is “very worried” about the Western Balkans, and that the region is “unhappily on the edge of another crisis.”
The crisis has stemmed from a battle over license plate registration and ID demands by Kosovo, which would force ethnic Serbs stop using Serbian registrations and to re-register for Kosovo documents. Kosovo Prime Minister previously set a November deadline for re-registration, but this was met with sharp Serbian resistance, as it was seen as tantamount to recognizing Kosovo independence.
Vucic has repeatedly stated that Serbia will never recognize Kosovo as an independent state, as it is not only seen a the heartland of historic Serbia, but also he has repeatedly voiced concerns about the treatment of ethnic Serbs there. Kurti, for his part, has pushed incessantly for independence, and here he has been aided by pressure from the EU and the US.
The EU has also warned Serbia to fall in line with EU politics with regard to Russia and ostensibly sanctions against Russia or risk eventual accession. This has put Vucic in a close-to-untenable position, as Serbia has been historically heavily dependent on Russian energy, and politically it has been close to Russia with this also in no small part due to the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Adding fuel to the fire have been legitimate gripes from Vucic stating that a peace deal on Kosovo has not been honored by the Kosovo side or de facto by Brussels. Likewise, there have been confusing statements by both the US—which has stated that a new agreement could be in place by December—and even by Borrell himself, who in August used Twitter to state:
“We have a deal. We have a deal. Under the EU-facilitated Dialogue, Serbia agreed to abolish entry/exit documents for Kosovo ID holders and Kosovo agreed to not introduce them for Serbian ID holders.”
Yet this seems to have never been quite the case.
Now the EU has also gone further, appearing to impose a deadline on both sides to resolve the current license-plate issue by next week, according to Associated Press reports.
Which might even be possible…
Even if all bets are off.
Photo credit of EU High Representative for Security Josep Borrell: Ministry of the Presidency. Government of Spain (Attribution or Attribution), via Wikimedia Commons.