Serbia's Vucic: No deal with Kosovo, sleepless nights ahead

  • 21 Nov 2022

President Vucic underlined that Belgrade was "completely constructive" during the talks, insisting on the "implementation of the signed agreements that were changed 10 times."

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell held an emergency meeting focused on dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo to discuss how to find a solution to the car license plate crisis. ( AA )

Serbia has said that it was unable to reach an agreement with Kosovo to resolve a dispute related to car license plates after a series of meetings in the Belgian capital.

"Sleepless nights and certainly many difficult days are ahead of us," Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters on Monday in Brussels following the latest meeting.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have risen since ethnic Serbs in Kosovo withdrew from all central and local institutions in protest over Pristina’s decision to replace old car license plates issued by Serbian authorities with those from Kosovo.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell held an emergency meeting focused on the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo to discuss how to find a solution to the car license plate crisis.

Vucic underlined that the Serbian side was "completely constructive" during the talks, insisting on the "implementation of the signed agreements that were changed ten times."

He accused Kosovo of refusing to "accept anything," adding "they always added something that was clearly not possible."

Vucic said Serbia would adhere to a request by Borrell for Belgrade not to issue new license plates and for Pristina not to impose fines on owners of vehicles with Serbian license plates.

READ MORE: Serbia rejects recognition of Kosovo as condition to speed up EU membership

License plate dispute

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, with most UN member states including the US, UK, France, Germany and Türkiye recognizing it as a separate autonomous country from its neighbor.

But Belgrade continues to regard it as its territory.

On Monday, the second phase of Kosovo's decision on the re-registration of vehicles is expected to begin, with the owners of vehicles with Serbian license plates to be fined €150 (around $153).

Pristina said it will start issuing fines this month to Serb drivers using old pre-independence plates and will confiscate vehicles with outdated registration numbers after April 21, 2023.

READ MORE: Serbia, Kosovo agree on new border policy for free movement: EU

'Suspend re-registrations'

Borrell, for his part, said Vucic had accepted a proposal presented by European negotiators to him and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who had rejected the compromise.

The deal could have avoided a risky situation in the north of Kosovo, Borrell added.

He called on Kosovo to immediately stop further activities related to the re-registration of vehicles in the north of the country.

"I repeat, I expect Kosovo to immediately suspend further stages related to re-registration in the north of Kosovo," Borrell said.

He added that this would allow the parties space and time to look for a sustainable solution.

The EU's external affairs spokesperson, Peter Stano, also criticised the Kosovar side, saying that not agreeing to the proposed deal sent a very negative signal.

"I will inform European Union member states, foreign ministers, and our partners about the unconstructive behavior of parties and complete lack of respect for their international legal obligations, and this goes in particular for Kosovo," said Stano.

READ MORE: Serbia to step in if NATO doesn't ‘do its job’ in Kosovo

'Avoid escalation'

The EU and NATO have urged both Serbia and Kosovo to refrain from unilateral actions and resolve outstanding issues through dialogue.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile called on Kosovo and Serbia to act responsibly and avoid tensions.

''We are disappointed that it was not possible to solve the license plate dispute. Now is the time for responsibility and pragmatic solutions. Escalation must be avoided,'' said Stoltenberg on social media.

He added that NATO's Kosovo peacekeeping force is on the alert for any situation.

US also expressed disappointment as Kosovo and Serbia failed to agree on a solution to the crisis, a State Department statement said.

'Complete normalisation of relations'

Kosovo's Prime Minister Kurti said that Borrell has abandoned the EU's proposal for the normalization of Kosovo-Serbia relations.

"This is unacceptable for us unless the negotiations are accompanied by an urgent commitment to the final agreement for the complete normalisation of relations, which is why we were invited here.

The deadline for the proposal brought by (EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav) Lajcak was March 2023. We are coming here to Brussels to agree on a new journey before March 2023. Unfortunately, the mediator, Borrell, in this case, has abandoned the March 2023 deadline and the EU proposal to normalize Kosovo-Serbia relations,'' said Kurti.

Brussels has facilitated the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, which is designed to ease tensions and resolve bilateral issues, one of t he requirements for full-fledged EU membership.