Yet the odds of the sides coming to an agreement to do appear high, with Vucic voicing pessimism prior to his Monday morning arrival in Brussels and with the Serbian Ministry of Defense noting that the Serbian military stands ready to protect Serbian citizens.
Vucic and Kurti have both up to this point played hardball with regard to the license-plate issue. Serbia sees the move to force re-registration as Kosovo’s play to de facto attain the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state—a status that Vucic has sworn he will never accept.
Meanwhile, the EU and the US have pressed for calm and UN KFOR forces reportedly also stand ready to intervene should the crisis get out of hand.
Which it may well do on Tuesday, as Nov. 22 is the day that Kosovo police are scheduled to hand out fines to all drivers lacking Kosovo license plates—which means pretty much every ethnic Serb in the country.
And while the license-plate row may seem petty outside of the region, in fact it has put Vucic between a rock and a hard place, as Serb’s refusal to join sanctions against Russia and also to recognize Kosovo independence—even though several other EU states, such as Spain, also have not done the same—have been seen as a threat to possible EU accession plans. Vucic, however, is unlikely to budge on the matter, as not only would his political support at home turn against him, but possibly the majority of the country, as polls have revealed that most Serb voters are against the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state.
There is also talk—especially on the Serb side—that the current situation may indeed end the Brussels agreement of 2013-2014 that stabilized relations between Kosovo and Serbia, following the war in Kosovo, Vucic has complained that while Serbia has lived up to its part of the agreement, the government of Kosovo has not and that ethnic Serbs are unfairly treated—even while the EU continues to pressure Serbia for Kosovo independence.
Photo of High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
EU Josep Borrell by European University Institute from Italy, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons