European Western Balkans

The deadline for a proposal on license plates to expire, delegation of Pristina and Belgrade in Brussels today

Beograd - Pristina; Photo: EPA / Valdrin Xhemaj

BRUSSELS – EU Spokesperson Peter Stano announced that meetings of the working groups between Belgrade and Pristina will be held in Brussels on Wednesday to find a permanent solution for license plates. He reiterated for the KoSSev that the EU will assist both delegations in order to find a solution, adding that the “responsibility lies on both sides” to reach an agreement.

“We want them to make progress by 21 April. Any agreement on license plates will require political flexibility and compromise”, Stano said.

On Thursday the six-month deadline expires for Belgrade and Pristina to reach a permanent solution when it comes to the way how citizens will travel between Serbia and Kosovo in the future. As things stand now, even after seven meetings and six months of negotiations in Brussels, the final solution is still far away.

After the last negotiations round in mid-April, EU Envoy for the Western Balkans and Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajčák called on the two sides to reach a compromise to “improve freedom of movement in the region” as the deadline approaches.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti reiterated on Monday that Pristina remains consistent with the principle of “reciprocity” in the negotiations on license plates because that is the “core of any solution”. Reciprocity refers to the abolition of Serbian plates with the signs of Kosovo cities and the introduction of “test plates” for vehicles from Serbia.

After the escalation of the tensions on the border between Serbia and Kosovo in September last year, a temporary solution was agreed upon: the symbols of Serbia and Kosovo be paster on stickers at the border crossings.

Based on the announcement of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija of the Government of Serbia, it seems that the Serbian side wants the temporary solution to remain in force for the next period. They announced on Monday that the “sticker solution” will be applied until an agreement on a permanent solution is reached. They add that the six-month deadline mentioned by Pristina does not exist, nor the principle of reciprocity.

What has been achieved so far?

The authorities in Pristina have been announcing for years that they will apply the part of the agreement that refers to license plates, i.e that no vehicle in Kosovo will be allowed to have “KS” plates, but car owners will have to replace them with “RKS”.

Despite Pristina’s long-standing announcements, Belgrade’s reaction was almost non-existent until 18 September last year, when this decision was implemented. At that time, Serbian citizens in Kosovo, led by the Srpska lista party, close to the authorities in Belgrade, blocked Jarinje and Brnjak border crossing.

In those days, tensions between Belgrade and Pristina were at ther peak, and many feared an armed conflict.

After these events, agreement on a temporary solution for license plates was agreed in Brussels at the end of Septemeber. The system of using stickers began, by means of which the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia conceal makrings on license plates.

According to the same agreement, the two sides agreed that the delegations of Belgrade and Pristina will form a working group at the technical level with the assitance of EU experts, which should find a permanent solution to the issue of license within six months.

These working groups have met seven times so far in the presence of EU mediators. The outcomes but also who participated in these meetings, are not known to the public.

What is speculated in the media is that there are three proposals on the table. The first is to keep the system without stickers, which is supported by the Kosovo side. Pristina also states that it is “the cheapest solution in accordance with European standards”. The other two solutions include “modification” of both Serbian and Kosovo license plates. According to one proposal, national symbols will be retained and abbreviation will be changed, while according to another, it should be the other way around.

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