Land Swaps in Western Balkans: EU & US Supportive of Serbia-Kosovo Deal

Written by | Monday, September 3rd, 2018

The European Union is hopeful that there will be a new breakthrough in Western Balkans
enlargement despite the tensions around land swaps for ethnic reasons. EU foreign relations
chief Federica Mogherini said that Kosovo and Serbia are poised to normalize their relations in a
binding agreement in 2020. “We’re all committed to finalize negotiations in the coming months,
before the end of the mandate of this commission – it’s still very difficult, but it’s not
impossible,” she said, referring to the European Commission, whose current mandate expires in
October 2019.
There are mounting speculations that both countries might exchange ethnic enclaves in a
territorial swap, which could lead to Belgrade’s formal recognition of Kosovo and eventually to
their respective EU memberships. Washington supported the idea last month, saying that “we
wouldn’t stand in the way, and we don’t think anybody in Europe would stand in the way”. The
importance of the Kosovo-Serbia deal would be comparable to the Greece-Macedonia name deal
earlier this year.
Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said Serbian recognition of Kosovo would be a major
pro-EU leap. “We need an accord between the two partners, so that, on the Serbian side, we
can recognize Kosovo, and the two countries [Serbia and Kosovo] can progress toward the
European Union,” Mr. Reynders said. The speculated land swaps would likely include the
exchange of ethnic Serb parts of north Kosovo for the ethnic Albanian Presevo Valley in Serbia.
The swap, however, risks a backlash by nationalists in Kosovo and Serbia as well as an
emboldening of Albanians in Macedonia, potentially also of Croats and Serbs in Bosnia in an
attempt to redraw borders.

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