EU warns of escalation after Serbia, Kosovo fail to solve license plate row

Serbia and Kosovo have failed to reach an agreement on a long-standing dispute over car license plates, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Monday, leading to a risk of violence in the coming days.

“After many hours of discussion, from eight o’clock this morning, the two parties did not agree to a solution today,” Borrell said after hosting eight hours of talks in Brussels with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovan government head Albin Kurti.

The meeting was held to help solve the latest crisis over a phaseout of Serbian license plates in Kosovo.

“I think that there is an important responsibility for the failure of the talks today and for any escalation and violence that might occur on the ground in the following days,” Borrell said.

The EU has submitted a proposal “that could avoid this dangerous situation,” Borrell said. However, this was accepted by Vucic, but not by the Kosovan leader.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia rejects it and considers Kosovo its own province.

This summer, tensions rose between Serbia and Kosovo over the latter’s decision to oblige Serbian vehicles to use Kosovan license plates. In July, ethnic Serbs blocked roads and erected barricades in Northern Kosovo to protest the move.

However, Borrell said the issue “went beyond license plates.”

Hundreds of police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other state workers from the Serb minority quit their jobs earlier this month, he said, which has led to a “security vacuum.”

Borrell stressed that both the Kosovan and Serbian heads of government should show “leadership and commitment,” in order to restore their relations.

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