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International Relations

Swapping Land, Changing Priorities?

According to Bulgarian sources, the Serbian government is considering a land swap with Kosovo. In exchange for a territory in northern Kosovo mainly inhabited by Serbs (grey area in map below), they would offer parts of the Presevo valley in southern Serbia, where a majority of the population is Albanian (shaded red area on the right.)

Ethnic map of Kosovo and neighboring regions / © BBC

Yet, Kosovars don’t seem to like the idea. The prime minister of neighboring Albania has also rejected the idea, arguing that it is important to keep political borders in the region as they are.

Trying to carve out ethnically homogeneous polities is indeed problematic, simply because it will never work. Neither the Presovo valley, which would be added to Kosovo, nor the northern parts of Kosovo, which Serbia claims, are inhabited by the respective ethnicity exclusively. There will always remain an ethnic minority, whose rights need to be protected.

There is an interesting aspect to the Serbian “proposal”, though. By suggesting a land swap with Kosovo, does the Serbian government not somehow recognize the country’s sovereignty, which officially is still part of Serbia? The plan adds at least evidence to the argument that Serbia attaches less and less importance to the status of Kosovo. If Serbia will eventually have to choose between the EU and Kosovo, as Igor Jovanovic suggested last week, will it choose the EU?

To me it seems it will. To admit so, however, would be suicide for the current Serbian government.