‘Hell on earth’ may break out in Kosovo – Serbian president

As Pristina plans to phase out Belgrade-issued license plates, Aleksandar Vucic warns that open hostilities may erupt

The situation in Serbia’s breakaway region of Kosovo may turn into “hell on earth” should the local authorities not reverse their plan to forbid Serbian license plates, President Aleksandar Vucic has said. The Serbian leader made the remarks on Sunday, a day before drivers still using old Belgrade-issued plates are to begin incurring fines.

On Monday, Vucic is set to participate in EU-sponsored talks in Brussels with Kosovar leader Albin Kurti in a last-ditch attempt to avert the looming flashpoint.

“We will do everything to prevent war but it does not depend on us,” Vucic told TV Prva.

“In such a case, Serbia will be with their people, and Serbs will defend their homes,” he added, blaming the situation on the Kosovar authorities. “If [Kurti] wanted to postpone the decision, he would have postponed it earlier… But Kurti has shown that he does not want Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.”

The controversial plan hatched by Kosovo to phase out Serbian-issued license plates has been the source of constant tensions between Belgrade and Pristina for months already. Under the plan, which affects some 10,000 drivers in the region, the plates must be replaced by Kosovo-issued ones by April 21 of next year.

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Drivers who fail to comply are set to first receive a warning, before subsequently incurring a €150 fine in the second phase, and, ultimately, ending up with their plates and vehicle confiscated altogether. 

An attempt to enforce the step in July nearly resulted in fighting between Serbia and Kosovo, with a crisis narrowly avoided after European and American diplomats brokered a temporary solution. In early November, dozens of ethnic Serb government employees in Kosovo resigned from their positions after a local police chief was fired by Pristina over his refusal to implement the license plate measures. 

Both Serbia and its breakaway province, which is not recognized as an independent state by the UN, are considering joining the EU. However, their aims are mutually exclusive, given that Pristina is planning on accession as an independent state, while Belgrade views Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia.

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