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The government in Kosovo postponed at the last minute the new measures for Serbs by a month. The laws will be enforced from today, but due to tensions in the north near the border with Serbia, their implementation has been suspended until September 1. As a result of the unrest, two border crossings were closed.
The new rules mean, among other things, that Serbs living in northern Kosovo will have to use Kosovo license plates. In addition, Serbs entering Kosovo must apply for some type of entry document at the border from today. In Serbia, a similar rule applies to Kosovars who want to visit the country.
The measures led to road blocks at the border. Kosovan Prime Minister Kurti wrote on Twitter, that the laws are now postponed on the condition that the barriers are removed.
The European Union’s foreign affairs coordinator, Josep Borrell, praised the Kosovo government’s decision to postpone the proceedings. It is expected that the erected barriers will be removed soon.
The laws angered Serbs, who make up a large group in northern Kosovo. Today, many of them still drive around in cars with Serbian license plates. Since Kosovo’s independence in 2008 (which Serbia does not recognize), Kosovo has had its own number plates.
Police in Kosovo closed two border crossings with Serbia last night amid the ensuing unrest. The police decided to do so because many of the roads with vehicles were closed. Local media reported that sirens sounded in the north.
The border crossings that have been closed are those at Garini and Pranjak, where there have been clashes before. The protesters used trucks full of gravel to block the roads. Police also said shots were fired at the officers, but no one was hurt.
This isn’t the first time states have argued over license plates. In the past year, disagreements over Kosovo’s plans have escalated. Until then, the Serbs closed all kinds of roads, including the crossings at Yarenje and Prancak. The Kosovo government then sent special units to the border and combat aircraft were deployed.
After the intervention of the European Union, countries finally agreed to a temporary solution, under which labels would be placed on certain parts of number plates.
NATO is ready to intervene
The NATO-led peacekeeping force (KFOR) described the situation as tense late Sunday night and said it was “ready to intervene if stability is threatened” in line with the “UN mandate”.
The military coalition is present in the region with about 4,000 peacekeepers. Italian peacekeepers were seen in the streets around the town of Mitrovica as sirens sounded on Sunday evening.
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