Kosovo begins issuing additional documents to Serbian citizens as protesters block roads


Fourteen years after Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, some 50,000 Serbs in the north still use license plates and documents issued by Serbian authorities and refuse to recognize the government of Pristina and its institutions.

Following tensions on Sunday and consultations with US and EU ambassadors, the government said it would postpone a decision until September 1, giving local Serbs 60 days to switch to Kosovo license plates and demand additional documents for the border to Serb citizens, including those living in Kosovo without local documents.

But as gravel-filled trucks and heavy machinery continued to block roads to the Brnjak and Jarinje border crossings in northern Kosovo Monday morning, the government began releasing the documents at the largest border crossing, Merdare.

“This decision will be implemented until all barricades are removed and the free movement of people and goods is ensured,” said Kosovar Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla.

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The NATO-led mission of KFOR helicopters flew over northern Kosovo, which is largely populated by Serbs and directly linked to Serbia. The border crossings of Brnjak and Jarinje remained closed.

Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by more than 100 countries, but not by Serbia or Russia.

A year ago, after local Serbs blocked the same roads in another row over license plates, the Kosovar government deployed special police forces and flew Belgrade fighter jets close to the border.

Tensions between the two countries remain high and Kosovo’s fragile peace is maintained by a NATO mission with 3,770 troops on the ground. Italian peacekeepers were visible in and around the then northern city of Mitrovica on Sunday.

The two countries committed to a European Union-sponsored dialogue in 2013 to try and resolve the remaining issues, but little progress has been made.

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