Amnesty ends for Kosovo Serbs to register their cars

PRISTINA (Reuters) – Serbs in Kosovo will not be allowed to use old car plates predating the country’s independence from Serbia as of Friday, an issue that has triggered the worst ethnic violence in the past two years.

Backed by Belgrade, some 50,000 ethnic Serbs living in the northern part of the country refuse to recognize Kosovo and have been using car plates registered before 1999 when it was part of Serbia.

The Kosovo government stated that the amnesty has ended at midnight on Friday, and all motorists with old plates will be penalized, with their cars subject to confiscation.

The government has delayed the decision several times to allow drivers to obtain new licence plates.

The police reported that out of 10,000 vehicles that belong to Kosovo Serbs in the north of the country, some 4,200 have new Kosovo licence plates, while many others have registered their cars in Serbia and are allowed to use them in Kosovo as well.

“Today we don’t see cars in the traffic with old plates,” Veton Elshani, Kosovo police deputy commander for the north told Reuters.

“We have told police officers that in the next two days they should only warn drivers, but staring from Monday we will fine them or even confiscate their vehicles.”

The enforcement of the new car licence plates rule was the main reason why, back in 2022, Serbs walked out of all Kosovo institutions such as municipalities, police, and courts in the northern region.

The region has witnessed the worst violence this year since Kosovo’s independence in 2008, culminating in Serb gunmen attacking police in the village of Banjska in September, resulting in the death of one police officer and three gunmen.

Some 50,000 Serbs living in other parts of Kosovo recognise the independent state and have used Kosovo number plates.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; editing by Clelia Oziel)