Ethnic Serb Police, Lawmakers In Kosovo Resign En Masse

By RFE/RL's Balkan Service

PRISTINA – Ethnic Serb lawmakers, judges, and police officers in Kosovo have resigned en masse from their posts in protest over the dismissal of a police officer who refused to follow a government order on vehicle license plates.

The resignations, announced on November 5, come amid escalating tensions in Kosovo involving the country’s ethnic Serb minority and the Kosovar majority who control most of the central government.

Goran Rakic, who heads the main political party representing Serbs in Kosovo, announced the resignations and accused Kosovar government authorities of not respecting international law and agreements negotiated in Brussels.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the effect of the mass resignations would be nor how many posts were affected.

Ethnic Serbs include a government minister, 10 members of parliament, and other top posts in the police and judiciary in the four local communities dominated by them, mainly in northern Kosovo.

The latest dispute involves the question of vehicle license plates. This week, Kosovar authorities dismissed a senior Serb police officer in northern Kosovo who refused to respect an order mandating that all vehicle license plates used in Kosovo be issued by the Kosovar government, rather than Serbian plates.

The measure took effect on November 1, and Kosovo authorities said enforcement would be gradual.

Many ethnic Serbs in Kosovo refuse to recognize the country’s independence from Serbia, which it declared in 2008, nearly a decade after a NATO-led military intervention halted a Serbia military operation.

Serbia, its main ally Russia, and some other countries refuse to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation. More than half of United Nations members, and most countries of the European Union, do.

In a post to Facebook not long after the resignation announcement, Prime Minister Albin Kurti appealed to the ethnic Serb community “to maintain calm, peace, and security.”

“I am not the prime minister against you, but Belgrade is against me. I am the prime minister who will serve you while respecting the constitutionality and legality of the Republic of Kosovo,” he wrote. “Do not boycott or abandon the institutions of Kosovo. They serve all of us, each and every one of you. Do not fall prey to political manipulations and geopolitical games.”

The European Union has told Kosovo and Serbia they must normalize ties if they want to advance toward membership in the 27-nation bloc.

Brussels and Washington recently have stepped up mediation efforts, fearing uncertainties over the war in Ukraine and Serbia’s close ties with Moscow could aggravate tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.

Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabic, defended the decision of the Kosovar Serbs to resign their posts.

"In their fight for peace, stability, the rule of law, and respect for all signed agreements, they will always have the full support of the government of Serbia,” she said in a statement.