The Big Split
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Officials from Kosovo’s Serbian minority resigned en masse this week to protest the government’s implementation of new vehicle license plates requirements, a move that has stoked tensions between the small Balkan nation and neighboring Serbia, Al Jazeera reported Saturday.
The mass resignations saw the departure of officials from the courts, police department and other government agencies following the order that around 10,000 Kosovo Serbs with license plates issued by Serbia must replace them with plates issued by Kosovo.
The walkouts followed the dismissal of a senior Serb police officer in northern Kosovo for refusing to change his vehicle’s license plate, according to Euronews.
The dispute is the latest in a long-running fight between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, which is predominantly ethnic Albanian. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Belgrade has not recognized the move.
The new license plate requirement went into effect last week but Kosovo authorities said that enforcement would be gradual. Even so, the government warned that they will start issuing fines to drivers with pre-independence license plates and will confiscate vehicles that have not had their registration numbers changed by next April.
The decision sparked debate about Kosovo’s sovereignty, particularly among the country’s Serb minority, who live primarily in the north and are still backed by neighboring Serbia.
Kosovo’s main supporters, including the US and the European Union, urged Prime Minister Albin Kurti to postpone the license plate change for another 10 months – but he has refused.
Following the resignations, Kurti called on Serbs not to leave the country’s institutions and not “fall prey to political manipulations and geopolitical games.”
Meanwhile, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic countered that her government “stands by our brave and proud people in Kosovo”.