For at least a year, Kosovo and Serbia have been engaged in a conflict over vehicle license plates. The conflict reflects disputes over the formal status of Kosovo, which declared itself independent in 2008.
NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) announced late Sunday that it “stands ready to intervene” in the event that the stability of northern Kosovo is endangered, after Serbs in northern Kosovo cut off two border crossings linking the region to Serbia.
According to MSN, the conflict originates in regulations imposed by the administration in Kosovo,
by which those entering the country from Serbia will have to hand over their Serbian identity cards for Pristina-issued IDs valid for three months.
There is also a dispute over a license-plate mandate by the Kosovar government, which has taken steps to ease tensions with Belgrade. From Euronews.com:
The Kosovo government has delayed a decision to oblige Serbs living in the country’s northern municipalities to apply for Pristina-issued number plates following a set of fresh tensions between local communities and law enforcement officials.
Residents near two border crossings with Serbia blocked access roads with trucks loaded with gravel and heavy machinery.
A similar conflict erupted last year, also leading to tensions along the border. In October 2021, ABC News reported that Serbian protesters, reacting to the Kosovo government forcing their license plates onto vehicles with Serbian plates, had blocked border crossings with Serbia. In response, ABC News explained,
European Union mediator Miroslav Lajcak persuaded representatives from the neighboring Balkan nations … to let the Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops take over the areas for the next 14 days.
It remains to be seen if NATO KFOR will take similar measures this time. Their announcement, per the aforementioned MSN quote, suggests a willingness to intervene.
Sven R. Larson is a political economist and author. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from Roskilde University, Denmark. Originally from Sweden, he lives in America where for the past 16 years he has worked in politics and public policy. He has written several books, including Democracy or Socialism: The Fateful Question for America in 2024.