The car registration and personal ID issue has been pressed hard by the Kosovo government, which wants ethnic Serbs to trade in current documents and plates for Kosovo registrations—which is reportedly how ethnic Kosovars are treated in Serbia. Yet ethnic Serbs in Kosovo and the Serbian government see this question much differently and as de facto a step toward the recognition of the independence of Kosovo.
Both states were clearly on edge leading into November, with the Kosovo government having set a Nov. 1 deadline for ethnic Serbs to trade in plates and IDs. This—as well as Kosovo independence—is seen as a no-go theme in Belgrade, although Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has recently seemed to waver slightly on the license plate issue, claiming that Serbia simply was not consulted by Kosovo or the EU on the matter.
That said, despite pressure from both the US and the EU to extend the deadline, the Kosovo government has been adamant that it will—at least eventually—force the change. This has now resulted in a minor show of strength by Serbia over the weekend, with press and second-hand reports claiming that the Serbian army had been put in a state of readiness, and that military vehicles were heading toward the border.
Compounding local mobilization, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic made claims, according to press sites, such as Radio Television of Serbia and Turkey’s www.aa.com.tr, that drones had been sent, ostensibly from Kosovo, to monitor Serbian bases.
Brnabic stated, as cited by www.aa.com.tr, that drones “filmed one position in the Ground Safety Zone and two barracks,” adding that she “was informed by the president and supreme commander of the Serbian military, and he gave the order to increase protection in the air, which is now a permanent state of affairs.”
Unsurprisingly, heightened tensions have not gone down well with the EU, with a unnamed representative of the German government reportedly having stated that Serbia must soon choose between Russia and the EU as its ultimate goal.
Serbia and Kosovo have had a brittle relationship since the end of the war in Kosovo in 2008—at which time Kosovo claimed independence, a status that has not been recognized by Serbia or by some countries in the EU, such as Spain, Romania and Greece. Serbia has long been pressured by the EU and the US to recognize the independence of Kosovo, with such pressures having grown since the eruption of the war in Ukraine. Likewise, Serbia has been pressured to join sanctions against Russia, as well as to enact reforms at home, such as getting tougher on organized crime and respecting press rights.
All things considered, Serbia’s track to EU accession appears to be continually in danger, as Vucic has repeated that both sanctions and independence for Kosovo are off the table.
Foto credit of German KFOR troops patrolling southern Kosovo in 1999 by: Nick Macdonald (nickmacdonald.net), CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons.