The largest parties in the German Parliament have opposed a land swap deal between Kosovo and Serbia.
In a Bundestag session on the routine annual approval to extend the German KFOR troops’s stay in Kosovo, MPs extensively discussed the expected restart of dialogue and its outcome, DW reported.
Coalition partners CDU/CSU and SPD, as well as the Liberals (FDP) and the Greens (Grüne) – stated their categorical rejection of a land swap deal.
The two ideologically extreme parties, The Left and the Alternative for Germany supported the exchange of territories and will vote against extending the mandate of German troops in Kosovo.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the government plans to increase the German presence at KFOR from 70 to 400 soldiers. Despite the relatively stable security situation there, Maas said that political relations between Kosovo and Serbia has deteriorated. He promised increased engagement by Germany in the dialogue after it takes up the EU presidency on July 1st.
Maas dismissed the idea of exchange of territories: “The goal is to move away from border solutions, which have been put on the table not only by the parties, but also by others who want to exert influence there. But that would only achieve a supposed-progress, if one could call it progress, given the situation there. Playing with such ideas only push the solution to complex problems and lead nowhere but to a dead end.”
Not surprisingly, AfD’s Anton Friesen called on the government to support the land swap plan “so that Serbs in northern Kosovo can be protected within their own state, and Albanian areas prone to destabilization in south of Serbia to stabilize by joining the territory of Kosovo.”
Alexander Neu of the Left Party also supported the land swap, arguing that the idea is backed by two presidents, Thaci and Vucic and Russia, and some in the EU.
Manuel Sarrazin from the Greens criticized the recent role of the United States in Kosovo: “Kosovo is being treated by Mr. Trump as a colony. Not from the European Union. And we have to reject that by saying that there will be no exchange of territories, because the people in Kosovo and Serbia are against it.”
Renata Alt, of the liberal FDP, also stressed the influence of other countries in the Balkans, such as Russia, China and Turkey. She called on Western Balkans countries not to turn their backs on the EU but to continue on the path of reform.
The Bundestag first sent troops to Kosovo in June, 1999. The government has estimated the cost of their mission until 2021 at 16.63 million euros. On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs approved the one-year extension of the mission.
Germany has consistently opposed a Kosovo-Serbia deal that would include land swap, which has been pushed forward by presidents of both countries.
EU top diplomat Josep Borrell recently stated that the union would not disapprove of land swap. However, following reactions from Kosovo against such deal, EU envoy for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue Miroslav Lajcak contradicted his boss and assured that land swap was not and should not be on the dialogue agenda.