Kosovo's ethnic Serb lawmakers and police resign over car plate row

Representatives of the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo on Saturday have resigned from their posts in protest over the dismissal of a police officer who did not follow the government's decision on vehicle license plates.

Earlier this week Pristina authorities dismissed a senior Serb police officer in northern Kosovo, who refused to change vehicle license plates to ones issued by Kosovo.

The shift has ignited volatile issues about Kosovo's sovereignty, especially among its Serb minority, many of whom still want the former Serb province to be part of Serbia and not independent.

Serbia itself has never recognised the independence of Kosovo.

As the measure came into effect Tuesday, Kosovo authorities said enforcement would be gradual. In three weeks, Pristina authorities will be issuing warnings to the ethnic Serbs who keep their old license plates. For the next two months they will be fined, and the next three months they can drive only with replaced temporary local plates.

Ethnic Serbs have a government minister, 10 parliamentarians and other top posts in governing, police and judiciary in their four local communities. All have resigned and senior police officers symbolically took off their uniforms on Saturday.

Both Pristina and Belgrade toughened their language and accuse each other of violating the deals they have reached at EU-mediated negotiations. The European Union has told Kosovo and Serbia they must normalise ties if they want to advance toward membership in the 27-nation bloc.

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