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Serbia and Kosovo hold emergency meeting over license plate row

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The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo convened in Brussels on Monday morning for an emergency meeting over their license plate row. 

The bloc’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said ahead of the meeting between Serbia’s Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo’s Albin Kurti that “we need de-escalation of the situation, stop going from permanent crisis management and start advancing on normalisation of relations instead.”

He is expected to update the press after the talks on Monday morning.

Tensions between Pristina and Belgrade have flared up in recent months, threatening to become the most serious crisis between the two sides in recent years.

Kosovo, which remains unrecognised by Serbia and which is home to a majority ethnic Albanian population, 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 plates with the total ban to come into force in April. 

Serbs in northern Kosovo, who like Belgrade do not recognise Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, refuse to do so. Many have resigned from public institutions to protest the new provision. 

The meeting in Brussels comes as the deadline for the punitive measures to come into force is due to expire. 

Kosovo police said they would start fining on Tuesday “any vehicle owner who drives on the territory of Kosovo with illegal number plates”.

Vučić expressed little optimism for a deal to be reached, telling TV Prva, as quoted by state broadcaster RTS: “I’m going, not because I think we can do something, but not to give any reason to blame Serbia for not wanting to participate.”

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