PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The Kosovo-Serbia border was blocked again Tuesday by ethnic Kosovo Serbs protesting a decision by Kosovo authorities to start removing Serbian license plates from cars entering the country. The traffic chaos raised fears that it may unleash much deeper tensions between the two Balkan neighbors.
Serbia doesn’t recognize its former province of Kosovo as a separate nation and considers their mutual border only as an “administrative” and temporary boundary.
Trucks have blocked the road to the Jarinje and Brnjak border crossing where small groups of Serbs spent the night in tents. An Associated Press photographer wasn’t let onto the road by car but other people crossed the border on foot.
Tensions soared Monday when Kosovo special police with armored vehicles were sent to the border to impose a rule on temporarily replacing Serb license plates from cars while they drive in Kosovo. It’s a minor annoyance for drivers with a big symbolic impact. Kosovo authorities say they are only copying a program by Serbian police, who have for years been taking off registration plates from Kosovo-registered cars entering Serbia. Drivers then need to pay 5 euros for a temporary license plate.
Kosovo authorities said a 2016 deal with Serbia reached in European Union-mediated talks had expired and now only proper Kosovo symbols are valid.