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Serbs in northern Kosovo quit their state jobs in protest over tuition fees

The long line of license plates is fueling ethnic tensions between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo.

Minority Serbs in northern Kosovo say they are resigning from their posts in state institutions, including the government, police and courts, to protest the use of new license plates issued by Pristina.

Following a meeting of Serb political representatives in northern Kosovo, the Minister for Communities and Returns, Goran Rakic, said he was resigning from his post in the Pristina government.

He told reporters that other representatives of the 50,000-member Serb minority in the north had also resigned from their jobs in municipal administrations, the courts, the police and parliament, and the government in Pristina.

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The long line of license plates has fueled tensions between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, which became independent in 2008 and is home to a small ethnic Serb minority in the north that is backed by Belgrade.

Kosovo, which is predominantly ethnic Albanian, has tried to force some 50,000 ethnic Serbs to accept Pristina’s authority on routine bureaucratic matters after a 10-year uprising against Serbia’s repressive regime.

The Kosovo government has said it will start imposing fines this month on Serb drivers using old pre-independence license plates, and will confiscate vehicles whose registration number has not been changed by April 21, 2023.

Rakic ​​said that they would not consider returning unless Pristina rescinds the order. They also demanded the formation of a union of Serb municipalities that would give greater autonomy to Serb-majority districts, he said.

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Prime Minister Albin Kurti urged the Serbs not to “boycott or abandon the institutions of Kosovo.”

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“They serve us all, each one of you. Don’t fall prey to political manipulations and geopolitical games,” Kurti added in a Facebook post.

Kosovo’s main backers, the United States and the European Union, have urged Kurti to postpone implementation of the license plate rule for another 10 months, but he has refused.

In September, when Kurti announced an October 31 deadline for motorists to make the change, he described the decision as “nothing more or less than an expression of the exercise of sovereignty.”

Blerim Vela, chief of staff to Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, tweeted that Belgrade “is coercing and inciting Kosovar Serbs to leave their jobs in Kosovo institutions.”

In Serbia, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said her government “stands behind our brave and proud people of Kosovo.”

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