Thousands of Kosovo Serb women walked the streets of Mitrovica to demand an easing of tensions between Belgrade and Pristina — as a dispute over car license plates threatens to spark unrest.
Demonstrators spoke out against planned fines by Kosovo authorities for those who refuse to change their Belgrade-issued vehicle registration plates, and against the cruelty they say they are facing daily from the authorities in Pristina.
“We have had enough with all of it”, said one protester, who added that she wanted to live in peace.
Long-simmering tensions between Serbia and its former province have mounted again in recent weeks over the Kosovo government’s decision to ban Serbian-issued license plates.
Kosovo, which remains unrecognised by Serbia, wants some 10,000 Kosovo Serbs whose vehicles have Serbian-issued plates to replace them with Kosovo Republic plates.
The phased plan includes warnings, fines, and eventually driving bans for refusing to switch.
The two sides have failed to reach a long-term agreement on the matter, despite mediation from both the EU and US.
The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell held long talks on Monday with the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo and blamed them for their failure to settle the dispute.
Around 3,700 NATO peacekeepers are still deployed in Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.But some now fear this impasse could lead to sectarian violence between the two communities in the region.
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