The disputed region will ?cease further actions? to abolish license plates issued by Belgrade, Brussels has announced
An agreement reached in Brussels on Wednesday may cool the tensions between Serbia and its breakaway province of Kosovo, as it appeared that the EU and the US managed to persuade the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina to drop its plan to force changes to Serbian license plates.
"We have a deal!" tweeted the EU foreign policy commissioner Josep Borrell, thanking the negotiators from Belgrade and Pristina for agreeing on "measures to avoid further escalation." According to Borrell, Serbia will stop issuing plates for Kosovo cities, while Kosovo will "cease further actions related to re-registration of vehicles."
Borrell added that this frees up Belgrade and Pristina to focus on "normalizing" their relations, saying more meetings will be held in the coming days. The EU has used the term to mean Serbia recognizing Kosovo as an independent state - which Belgrade has refused, but Brussels has officially named as precondition for joining the bloc.
The deal puts an end to Pristina's threats to charge the local Serbs 150-euro fines for not having Kosovo license plates and documents, Serbian negotiator Petar Petkovic told the Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti.
"[Kosovo PM Albin] Kurti accepted tonight everything he previously rejected," Petkovic said. "We managed to preserve peace and stability. Our people can sleep peacefully." While Serbia has agreed not to issue new plates, none had been issued over the past three years anyway, and the existing ones will remain in service, he added.
Kosovo is a province of Serbia that NATO occupied after the 1999 bombing campaign. Its ethnic Albanian provisional government declared independence in 2008 with US backing. The current tensions began when Kurti announced the ban on Serbian license plates at the end of July, saying it was a "rule of law" matter.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has argued that Kurti is only interested in recognition and dooming all talks to failure by refusing to honor his obligations. After the failed talks on Tuesday, Borrell actually agreed with Belgrade, blaming Pristina for rejecting the EU proposal.
After Wednesday's deal was announced, Kosovo president Vjosa Osmani thanked the American envoy in Pristina Jeff Hovenier and the US government for their "indispensable" support and "active engagement." Kurti had delayed the implementation of the license plate rules by 48 hours on Tuesday, citing a request from the US envoy.