The European Union warned of “escalation and violence” after Serbia and Kosovo failed to resolve a growing dispute over car license plates during an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday, Reuters reported.
“After many hours of discussion...the two parties did not agree to a solution today,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “I think that there is an important responsibility for the failure of the talks today and for any escalation and violence that might occur on the ground in the following days.”
The dispute stems from Kosovo’s long-running call for the country’s ethnic Serb minority to switch their old Serbian license plates for Kosovo-issued ones. Tensions flared up earlier this year when Pristina announced a two-month window for drivers to make the change, triggering sometimes violent protests.
Borrell said the EU suggested a proposal to diffuse tensions on Monday that was accepted by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic but rejected by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.
Earlier Radio Free Europe reported that Kosovo police will start issuing fines of up to 150 euros ($154) for drivers using old plates starting on Tuesday, while EuroNews said the government may also issue driving bans for people who refuse to switch over.
Kosovo won independence from Serbia in 2008 and today ethnic Serbs account for around five percent of the country’s 1.8 million population. Ethnic Albanians make up the majority.
Serbia still considers Kosovo to be an integral part of its territory and ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo do not recognize the authority of its institutions.
In July and August, Serbs in northern Kosovo put up barricades on major roads in retaliation against the license plate decision, according to Radio Free Europe. Many judges, police, and lawmakers have also quit state jobs in protest.
Around 10,000 motorists need to switch old car registrations that date before 1999, when Kosovo was still part of Serbia, according to Kurti.