EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell has refused to exclude exchange of territories as an option for a Kosovo-Serbia deal.
Speaking to journalist from the Western Balkans region, Borrell said that the EU “should not be more catholic than the Pope” and demand the two countries to exclude land swap from a potential deal, Kosovo’s Koha newspaper reported.
Asked whether he personally and the EU is against the exchange of territories between Kosovo and Serbia, Borrell said:
“[…] 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.”
Borrell added that any deal between the two countries should be closely studied 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.”
Pressed by the journalist to clarify whether this meant that the EU would contradict the position of Germany, which is against any deal that would include land swap, Borrell said that his role is to facilitate the dialogue and assess side effects of a Kosovo-Serbia deal.
“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 others, but my role, and that of my Special Representative [Miroslav Lajcak], is to facilitate the dialogue,” Borrell insisted.
The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia have been pushing for a deal based on exchange of territories between the two countries since 2018, with the mediation of the former EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini. The plan was declared dead by Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic after the Berlin Summit organized by Merkel and Macron last year, but it resurfaced after President Trump assigned Ambassador Richard Grenell as Special Envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue in October 2019.
Experts overwhelmingly warn against a deal that would include land swap and border delineation along ethnic lines. According to this alleged plan, part of Kosovo’s territory inhabited by Serbians would join Serbia and vice versa. They argue that the move could create a chain reaction as almost all countries in the region have ethnic minorities beyond their national border, in the neighboring countries.