Josep Borrell Is Not Opposed to a Land Exchange Deal Between Kosovo and Serbia

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has refused to rule out land swaps as an option for a deal between Kosovo and Serbia.

In a statement to a journalist from the Western Balkans, Borrell said (05.05) that the EU “should not be more Catholic than the Pope” and ask the two countries to exclude the exchange of territories from a potential deal, the Kosovo newspaper “Koha Ditore” reported.

On a question, whether he personally or the EU is against the swap of territories between Kosovo and Serbia, Borrell have responded: “…This is an issue that needs to be resolved in the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. I see no need for us to be more catholic than the Pope. It is not up to us to tell Serbs and Kosovars what they should agree on or not. Our role will be to facilitate the dialogue. But as I said we should not be more catholic than the Pope”.

However, Borrell added that any deal between the two countries must be carefully examined by the EU in terms of its potential impact in the region.

“If they agree on something, we should study that agreement anyway, because every agreement between Serbia and Kosovo has an impact on the region. But in principle this should be a free and fair dialogue between the two sides”.

Asked again to clarify whether this means that the European Commission will oppose Germany’s position, which opposes any deal involving an exchange of territories, Borrell said his role was to facilitate dialogue and assess the side effects of the agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

“Let me say that I am more eclectic [than Germany]. We need to facilitate dialogue and, as I said, consider the collateral effects of any kind of agreement in other parts of the region, where the problem of border movement has always been sensitive. I personally understand the position of Germany and other countries, but my role, and that of my Special Representative [Miroslav Lajcak], is to facilitate the dialogue”, Borrell insisted.

The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia are in favor of the idea of ​​concluding a deal based on the exchange of territories between the two countries, which was discussed in 2018, during the talks in Brussels with the mediation of former EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini. The plan was declared dead by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic after the Berlin Summit hosted by chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron in the summer of 2019, but it reappeared on the agenda after president Donald Trump appointed ambassador Richard Grenell as Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in October 2019.

The majority of EU and Western Balkan experts disapprove a possible deal that would involve exchanging territories and delineating ethnic lines, with part of Kosovo’s Serb-populated territory joining Serbia and in return, the two Albanian-populated municipalities of Presevo and Bujanovac in Serbia to join Kosovo. There are serious concerns that this move could create a chain reaction, as almost all countries in the region have ethnic minorities outside national borders in neighboring countries.

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