Fourteen years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, some 50,000 Serbs in the north still use registration plates and documents issued by Serbian authorities, refusing to recognize the Pristina government and its institutions.
After Sunday’s tensions and consultations with US and European Union ambassadors, the government said it would postpone until September 1 a decision that would give local Serbs 60 days to switch to Kosovo license plates and require additional documents at the border to be issued to Serb citizens, including those. Living in Kosovo without local documents.
But as trucks and heavy machinery laden with gravel continued to block the roads to Prnicak and Yaringi border crossings in northern Kosovo on Monday morning, the government began issuing documents at the largest border crossing, Mirdar.
“This decision will continue to be implemented until all barriers are removed and the free movement of people and goods is guaranteed,” said Kosovo Interior Minister Šilal Svekla.
NATO-led KFOR helicopters flew over northern Kosovo, which is predominantly Serb and is directly linked to Serbia. The Prancak and Garinci border crossings remained closed.
Kosovo has been recognized as an independent country by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Russia.
A year ago, after local Serbs blocked the same roads in another row over license plates, the Kosovo government deployed special police forces and Belgrade launched fighter jets near the border.
Tensions between the two countries remain high, and the NATO mission with 3,770 soldiers on the ground maintains Kosovo’s fragile peace. Italian peacekeepers were seen in and around the northern town of Mitrovica on Sunday.
In 2013, the two countries committed to an EU-sponsored dialogue to try to resolve outstanding issues but little progress was made.