One of the most contentious topics in the Western Balkans in recent months has been a proposed Serbia-Kosovo land swap. Under this “comprehensive deal”, Belgrade would regain control of disputed territory in North Kosovo and recognise the Republic of Kosovo as a state, while Kosovo would gain some municipalities in the Presevo Valley. For once, the sides seemed to be on a rational quest for a solution to a difficult regional problem. Yet, for other Balkans countries and many other observers, Serbia and Kosovo now seem intent on a deal that would set a dangerous precedent for redrawing national borders along ethnic lines (outside the extraordinary circumstances of military aggression and genocide seen in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s). This type of agreement would primarily threaten to destabilise Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro – but it could also boost nationalists engaged in territorial disputes elsewhere in Europe, from Trieste to Transylvania and Tyrol.
Against this background, the European Commission adopted in February 2018 a strategy for enhancing engagement with the Western Balkans under which Serbia could have a shot at acceding to the European Union by 2025. However, the Commission has emphasised that this will only happen if Belgrade and Pristina normalise their relationship.
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(Photo: European Commission Audiovisual Services)