Dispute over license plates – “The country code was pasted over at the border” – News

From 1.11. The following applies: All cars in Kosovo must have Kosovo license plates, including the cars of the several thousand Serbs living in Kosovo. When the Kosovo government wanted to enforce the new law in the summer, there were riots at the border. The government has therefore postponed the deadline until the beginning of November. SRF Balkan correspondent Peter Balzli is on the scene monitoring the situation.

Peter Balzli

SRF correspondent


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Peter Balzli is SRF’s Eastern Europe correspondent, currently based in Prishtina.

SRF News: How is the situation at the border at the moment?

Peter Balzli: So far everything has been calm on the border between Kosovo and Serbia. The Kosovo government decided on Sunday not to introduce the new rules at the border all at once, but step by step to avoid escalation. Now fines will not be counted until December 21. Cars with number plates – which are illegal from a Kosovo perspective – still have to get through, and it’s not until December 21 that things get serious.

Won’t there be fines for old license plates at the end of the year?

Exactly. From now on, anyone who drives with one of these license numbers will receive a written statement that they will be fined in the future. But they still have to get through at the border.

The ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo had created a so-called parallel authority that issued Serbian license plates on its own in Kosovo.

Why do we argue about license plates?

This dispute has existed since the Serbia-Kosovo war more than 20 years ago. Even today, Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as a separate state. The ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo had therefore created a so-called parallel authority, which on their own initiative issued Serbian license plates in Kosovo. The Kosovar authorities no longer want to tolerate this. They now apply the so-called principle of reciprocity.

In the past, the Kosovar authorities have tolerated this Serbian parallel authority. What has changed?

Kosovo reluctantly accepted this unequal treatment for years. They have repeatedly made it tempting for the ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo to get Kosovo license plates. But the Serbs who did so often ran into big trouble. Their countrymen, or part of their countrymen, called them traitors. Their cars were destroyed, apartments were looted, burglaries were committed, etc. Therefore, the ethnic Serbs were mostly not given Kosovo license plates.

Kosovo’s interior minister told me it was all a stupid, ridiculous argument that had to stop.

And how exactly did it work at the border?

Specifically, the country code on the number plate has been covered by an adhesive since August when crossing a border. KRS – Republic of Kosovo – is taped over and the car is let through. Even the authorities themselves now find this practice of masking coats of arms ridiculous. I had a conversation with the Minister of the Interior of Kosovo and he told me that it was all a stupid, ridiculous argument that had to end.

A man pasted the country's license plate over his car

Legend:

Until now, the country code on certain car numbers had to be crossed out.

REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

What’s next in the license plate dispute?

Perhaps this is the end of the dispute. The unrest can only be postponed until December or April. So far, the deadline has been extended and postponed several times. But the problem actually remains the same. Perhaps this strategy of the Kosovar authorities will work with the gradual introduction. Time will tell.

The conversation was conducted by Nicolas Malzacher.

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