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Kosovo and Serbia release banned border crossings

Kosovo and Serbia release banned border crossings


US soldiers patrol the border between Serbia and Kosovo
© APA / AFP

Serbia and Kosovo launched the banned border crossings after settling their dispute over vehicle license plates. Cars and trucks that had been blocking roads to the border for several days were turned away again on Saturday. At the Jarinje border crossing, traffic gradually returned. In the conflict, which threatened to escalate militarily, a compromise was reached on Thursday, mediated by the European Union.

Already strained relations between Serbia and Kosovo were greatly strained nearly two weeks ago when Kosovo no longer recognized Serbian plates. The government in Pristina has also moved special police units to northern Kosovo, where Serbs mainly live. Then Serbia sent tanks to the border.

On Thursday, Pristina and Belgrade reached an agreement through European Union mediation. Kosovo promised to withdraw its special police forces from the border and lift barriers on Saturday. The NATO-led protective force KFOR, in which the armed forces also participates as a large unit, is now supposed to ensure a “safe environment and freedom of movement” in the border area.

In the license plate dispute, Kosovo justified its actions as a measure of “reciprocity”, with Kosovar vehicles being forced to use Serbian license plates temporarily when entering Serbia for years. So the government in Pristina wanted to oblige Serbian passengers to put on temporary license plates from Kosovo when entering the country.

The cause of the dispute lies in the pending status issue. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but the government in Belgrade still considers Kosovo, which is largely inhabited by ethnic Albanians, a separatist province and has the support of two UN veto powers, Russia and China, paving the way for Europe’s newest country at the United Nations. . Kosovo’s status under international law is also controversial in the EU: Austria and 21 other EU countries recognize it as an independent state. But not Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania. The background to it is the impetus for the autonomy of minorities in these countries, such as the Catalans in Spain.

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