PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovo’s government on Thursday postponed a deadline by two weeks for ethnic Serbs living in the country to register their vehicles with Kosovo license plates instead of Serbian ones.
The move was made to give ethnic Serbs more time to comply with the order. The deadline was initially set for Friday, but has been moved to Dec. 15.
The program has financial incentives, including the waiving of taxes and the registration fee. After the deadline passes, old number plates would be considered illegal, and violators would first be fined and then have their vehicles towed if they didn’t subsequently abide by the new rules.
In recent days, Associated Press journalists have seen scores of ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo lining up to register their vehicles. Authorities say that about 3,000 vehicles out of an estimated 4,000 ones have been registered so far.
The issue of vehicle registration has sparked tensions in the past. Vehicle registration was one of the reasons why ethnic Serb municipal, judicial and police officials in four northern municipalities resigned their posts last year to protest a decision by Kosovo’s government to ban Serbia-issued vehicle license plates.
No official reason has been given for the recent change in attitudes among ethnic Serbs in being more willing to accept Kosovo license plates this time around.
Tensions in the north and with neighboring Serbia remain tense, especially after a deadly gunbattle on Sept. 24 when about 30 Serb gunmen clashed with Kosovo police, leaving a Kosovar officer and three Serb gunmen dead.
European Union-facilitated talks on normalizing their ties is at a stalemate.
Kosovo unilaterally broke away from Serbia and declared independence in 2008, a move that Belgrade has refused to recognize.
The 1998-1999 war between Serbia and Kosovo killed about 13,000 people, mostly Kosovo Albanians. It ended after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign that compelled Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo.
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