US and EU initiate contacts in Kosovo to resolve tensions over license plate controversy

Representatives of the U.S. Government and the European Union’s External Action Service are in Kosovo as part of contacts to resolve tensions in the area over the license plate controversy, after negotiations in Brussels between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti failed to make progress on the issue.

In a joint trip, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Balkans Gabriel Escobar and EU Special Envoy for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajcak have begun contacts with key players in the region, with an eye toward resolving tensions over the implementation of a law whereby people from Serbia entering Kosovo must surrender their identity documents, to be replaced by ones issued in Pristina.

The controversial law was postponed for a month in the face of tensions generated in the border area last July, including organized blockades by the Serb minority in northern Kosovo. All until next week, when on September 1 the law would technically come into force again, if an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina is not reached before then.

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The visit of the two officials began Wednesday with a meeting with Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani, with whom the U.S. and European representatives discussed the “importance of avoiding new tensions” in northern Kosovo.

Later, the diplomats met with Kurti, an interlocutor in the EU-facilitated Dialogue, to whom Lajcak stressed the need to ensure freedom of movement in the area and to seek ways to advance talks with Serbia.

Escobar and Lajcak’s agenda in Kosovo also includes meetings with the opposition, before whom he has presented the situation in which the Dialogue with Belgrade finds itself and thanked them for their support for this initiative. Meanwhile, with the commanders of the NATO mission in Kosovo, they were able to receive first-hand information on security in the area, after the Atlantic Alliance reminded them that it is ready to take whatever measures are necessary to guarantee stability in Kosovo, including increased deployment.

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After leaving Kosovo, the European representative met in Belgrade with Vucic, with whom he had a “difficult but responsible” conversation, in Lajcak’s own words. Among the messages he conveyed to him was a call for the implementation of the 2011 agreement on freedom of movement.

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