Representatives of the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo resigned from their posts on Saturday in protest against the dismissal of a police officer who did not follow the government’s decision on car license plates.
Earlier this week, authorities in Pristina fired a senior Serbian police officer in ethnic Serb-majority northern Kosovo who refused to abide by a decision to replace car license plates with those issued there. The change has fueled volatile questions about Kosovo’s sovereignty, especially among its Serb minority, many of whom still want the former Serbian province to be part of Serbia rather than independent. Serbia itself has never recognized the independence of Kosovo…
When the measure went into effect on Tuesday, Kosovo authorities said it would be implemented gradually. For three weeks, the Pristina authorities will issue warnings to ethnic Serbs who have retained their old license plates. Over the next two months, they will be fined, and for another three months, until April 21, they will only be able to drive with replaced temporary local numbers.
Ethnic Serbs have a government minister, 10 parliamentarians and other senior positions in the government, police and judiciary in the four local communities where they dominate. Everyone resigned, and senior police officers symbolically took off their uniforms after Saturday’s meeting. The effect of the mass resignation was unclear.
Trouble flared up this summer over Serbia and Kosovo’s refusal to recognize each other’s identity papers and license plates. Kosovo Serbs in the north set up roadblocks, turned on air raid sirens and fired into the air.
In August the envoys EU and the United States negotiated a solution to the problem of travel documents, which helped to calm the situation.
At that time, Pristina also decided to postpone until November 1 the decision that vehicles with old or Serbian license plates should be replaced with Kosovo ones. It also meant that cars entering from Serbia had to replace their Serbian license plates with Kosovo ones. For the past 11 years, Serbia has required the opposite for cars entering from Kosovo.
Kosovo’s independence in 2008 was recognized by the United States and most EU countries, except for Greece and a few other countries. At the same time, Serbia is relying on the support of Moscow and China in its desire to preserve the former region. Belgrade lost control of Kosovo in 1999 after NATO bombed Serbia to stop the crackdown on Albanian separatists.