HomeWorld NewsSerbia-Kosovo ID document row settled, says EU

Serbia-Kosovo ID document row settled, says EU

A woman walks past a mural reading Image source, AFP via Getty Images

Image caption,

A woman walks past a mural reading “Kosovo is Serbia and Crimea is Russia” in the Serb majority north of Mitrovica, Kosovo

Serbia and Kosovo have settled a dispute over the movement of citizens across their border, the EU said.

“We have a deal,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted.

Under EU negotiations, Serbia agreed to abolish entry/exit documents for Kosovo ID holders, while Kosovo agreed not to introduce them for Serbian ID holders, he said.

But the two countries are yet to agree on the contested use of Serbian car number plates issued in north Kosovo.

In 2008, predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, which never recognised the move and continues to treat Kosovo as part of its territory.

Relationships between the Albanian-dominated government and the Serb minority have been strained for years. Late last month, the tensions boiled over into civil disobedience.

Kosovo’s government wanted to introduce a new measure that would require ethnic Serbs to use Kosovo-issued car licence plates and for people entering the country via Serbia to receive special entry documents.

Some 50,000 people in these areas oppose having Kosovan number plates, because they refuse to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Ethnic Serbs in the northern region of Kosovo, which borders Serbia, barricaded roads and some men reportedly fired shots in protest.

Kosovo’s government postponed implementing the new rules for a month.

EU-facilitated talks have now led to an agreement over the ID documents, Mr Borrell said, after he “received guarantees” from Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

“Kosovo Serbs, as well as all other citizens, will be able to travel freely between Kosovo and Serbia using their ID cards,” he tweeted.

However, the car number plates issue remains unresolved.

Kosovo is a small, landlocked country in the Balkans, bordering Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Many Serbs consider it the birthplace of their own nation.

But of the 1.8 million people living in Kosovo, 92% are Albanian and only 6% Serbian.

After the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Kosovo – a province of the former country – sought its own autonomy and independence.

Serbia responded with a brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

This ended in 1999, with a Nato bombing campaign against Serbia between March and June.

Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo – but for many Kosovo Albanians and Serbs, the conflict has never been resolved.

The Nato-led Kosovo Force (KFor) is still based in Kosovo, with a current strength of 3,770.

A total of 99 out of 193 United Nations countries now recognise Kosovo’s independence, including the US, the UK and 22 out of 27 EU countries.

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