Thousands of Kosovo Serb women took to the streets of Mitrovica to call for a detente between Belgrade and Pristina – while a row over car number plates threatens to spark unrest.
The protesters spoke out against planned fines by the Kosovan authorities for those who refuse to change their Belgrade-issued vehicle registration plates and the atrocities they are said to face on a daily basis at the hands of the authorities in Pristina.
“We’ve had enough of this,” said one protester, adding that she wanted to live in peace.
Long-simmering tensions between Serbia and its former province have risen again in recent weeks over the Kosovan government’s decision to ban Serbian-issued number plates.
Kosovo, which is not recognized by Serbia, wants about 10,000 Kosovo Serbs whose vehicles have Serbian-issued plates to replace them with Republic of Kosovo plates.
The phased plan provides for warnings, fines and finally driving bans in the event of a refusal to switch.
Despite mediation by both the EU and the US, both sides were unable to reach a long-term agreement on the matter.
The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell held lengthy talks with leaders of Serbia and Kosovo on Monday, blaming them for their failure to settle the dispute.
Around 3,700 NATO peacekeepers are still stationed in Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008. However, some fear this impasse could lead to sectarian violence between the two communities in the area.
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