New Tension Expected Between Kosovo and Serbia?

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For years, one of the most contentious issues on the regional agenda has been the continuous conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. In July 2022, the Government of Kosovo made it mandatory for everyone, including Serbs, to have a Kosovo ID card and license plate. After that, tensions between the two countries escalated. During this time, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Kosovo Force (KFOR) declared that it would act if stability was threatened.[1]

The tension in question has been addressed, albeit temporarily, owing to the discussions undertaken through the European Union’s (EU) intervention. Thus, it was announced that an agreement was reached between Kosovo and Serbia on the free travel of all citizens, including Kosovo Serbs. This agreement went into effect on September 1, 2022. However, although the identity card issue between the two countries appears to have been addressed, an agreement on the license plate dispute could not be achieved.

As one may recall, Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti declared that about 50,000 drivers will have until October 31, 2022, to change their Serbian license plates with those issued by Pristina.[2] Before this statement, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic stated that a license plate deal with Kosovo was not feasible and that, “Kosovo will try to force Serbs to change plates. I don’t think they will have a big success.”[3]

On August 31, 2022, Miroslav Lajcak, the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, indicated that the parties had been granted two months (31 August-31 October 2022) to resolve the license plate dispute.[4] With the deadline approaching, all eyes are now turned to Kosovo and Serbia. It is extremely difficult for the two countries to reach an agreement on license plates.

As it can be seen, it is unclear whether the parties will experience fresh tensions. As a result, Lajcak paid a visit to Kosovo on October 13, 2022, just before the date of 1 November 2022, when Kosovo’s decision to replace Serbian plates with Kosovo ones when crossing borders became effective. His statements on this occasion are as in the following:[5]

“As you all know, the deadline for changing vehicle license plates is October 31. As a result, it is critical for me, for us, for the EU, and for the world community to understand what the strategy is to avoid escalation, which is not in anyone’s best interests.”

On October 17, 2022, four days after his visit to Kosovo, Lajcak went to Belgrade and met with Vucic. In a Twitter post about the meeting, Lajcak claimed that he was continuing discussions to restore relations, adding, “Energy and license plates were high on our agenda as solutions are urgently needed.”[6] As a result, Lajcak’s trips might be interpreted as an attempt to ease tensions between the parties. However, whether or not these visits were effective will not be revealed until November 1, 2022.

On October 18, 2022, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) examined the six-month report on the work of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (March 16-September 15, 2022). Before the meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the two nations’ continued harsh language would exacerbate tensions and expressed his hope that the diplomatic initiatives of the EU and the United States of America (USA) would yield results.[7]

As it can be concluded, no consensus has been reached on license plates. This indicates that a new crisis is at the door. On the other hand, it is possible to state that the EU and the USA have increased the pressure on the parties to reach an agreement.

According to Vucic, Germany and France suggested that if Serbia allowed Kosovo to enter the United Nations (UN), it would accelerate Belgrade’s EU membership process. However, the Serbian leader stated that his country cannot accept Kosovo’s membership in the UN, both from a constitutional point of view and for other reasons. It is also worth noting that Vucic stated that leaving the decision on Kosovo’s final status to the EU was a great error and that the EU is delaying finding answers to current difficulties.[8]

On the other hand, it is considered that Belgrade’s hand, which did not take the expected steps not to impose sanctions on Russia, is a bust. In other words, it is assumed that the EU adopts a pro-Kosovo stance. The current situation shows that Kosovo has a significant advantage in turning the crisis arising from the war in Ukraine into an opportunity.

In conclusion, it can be predicted that the tension between Kosovo and Serbia will escalate further in November 2022. Because it is understood that Pristina and Belgrade will not compromise on license plates. As a result, it is reasonable to conclude that a long-term solution to the crisis will take time.

[1] “Kosovo-Serbia Tension: What Decayed Between the Two Countries?”, BBC Turkish,, (Date of Accession: 18.10.2022).

[2] “Kurti Calls Kosovo Serbs to Replace License Plates”, N1, /, (Date of Accession: 18.10.2022).

[3] “Serbia’s Vucic: “No Agreement Yet” over Kosovo License Plate Dispute”, Balkan Insight,, (Date of Accession: 18.10.2022).

[4] “Lajčák: Two Months for Kosovo and Serbia to Find A Solution for Vehicle License Plates”, European Western Balkans,, (Date of Accession: 18.10.2022).

[5] “Kosovo Prime Minister Kurti Met with Laj Decak”, Time Balkan, /, (Date of Accession: 18.10.2022).

[6] “Vucic Discusses Kosovo Dialogue With Lajcak”, N1,, (Date of Accession: 18.10.2022).

[7] “UN Security Council to Discuss Kosovo”, N1, /, (Date of Accession: 18.10.2022).

[8] “Vucic Explained the Kosovo Proposal of Germany and France”, Balkan News,, (Date of Accession: 18.10.2022).

Lisans eğitimini Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi'nde tamamlayan Sibel Mazrek, yüksek lisans eğitimine Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü'nde Gazetecilik Ana Bilim Dalı'nda devam etmektedir. Çeşitli medya kuruluşlarında muhabirlik, spikerlik sunuculuk görevlerini üstlenen Mazrek, ANKASAM'da Medya Koordinatörü olarak çalışmalarına devam etmektedir.