Land swap between Serbia and Kosovo?
The governments of Serbia and Kosovo are discussing redrawing the border between their countries in a bid to resolve the frozen Kosovo conflict. Areas that are mainly inhabited by Serbs in the north of Kosovo could be swapped for municipalities in the south of Serbia with mainly ethnic Albanian populations. But what would that mean for other border conflicts?
What about Crimea?
If the US and the EU agree to a land swap between Serbia and Kosovo this would have far-reaching consequences, the pro-Russian paper Duma predicts:
“If they don't want to be accused of double standards, they'll have to accept other border shifts in the western Balkans as well. And they'll have to recognise border changes outside the Balkans, for example between Russia and Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea. And one day they'll also have to approve the potential accession of the Peoples' Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk to the Russian Federation.”
Borders must be inviolable
A land swap between Serbia and Kosovo could fuel the struggles for a redrawing of borders elsewhere in Europe, Delo also warns:
“Putting out a fire in one place could start a new one elsewhere. Bosnia and Herzegovina would be hit hardest by the consequences. With its hard Serbian line the political leadership of the Republika Srpska has never buried its plans for reunification with Serbia. The Croats in Herzegovina can hardly wait to unite with Croatia. And Macedonia and Montenegro are also multi-ethnic states. The inviolability of borders is one of the most important treasures of European law. Changing them according to ethnic principles could trigger a domino effect.”
Serbia must build a future without Kosovo
Serbia should accept that it has lost Kosovo, the left-leaning daily Danas contends:
“We face the question of whether to remove the 'obstacle of Kosovo' on our path towards Europe or to let our long march towards the EU come to a stop. There isn't a third option. ... The citizens must be made to see what they stand to lose if this obstacle to our joining the EU and moving closer to the West remains. Serbia's economy and democracy would suffer as a result of this decision. The Serbs in Kosovo would also be victims of the chaos, the despair and the decline of the state and nation. ... Serbia is in big difficulties, but Serbia lives on without the lost Kosovo - it wants to and it must live on.”
Bosnia and Macedonia could follow suit
A redrawing of the border between Serbia and Kosovo could open up Pandora's box, Delo believes:
“Experts warn that a land swap could produce two ethnically cleansed states. ... That would be playing with fire and could have unpredictable consequences for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as for Macedonia. Such an incendiary project could start a chain reaction among the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia, or the Albanians in Macedonia, who could then also demand that their borders be redrawn. Opponents of the land swap warn that it could cause the region to relapse into the bloodshed of the 1990s.”
Danger of a calamitous domino effect
The shifting of the border between Serbia and Kosovo could set a dangerous precedent, Evenimentul Zilei believes:
“Discussions about a land swap based on ethnic criteria entail major risks above all in the Balkans. Particularly against the symbolic backdrop of the First World War having started there with the assassination in Sarajevo. A land swap could trigger a domino effect, with ensuing demands for other border shifts in Europe. This could quickly trigger a war in the region. Once the ball is rolling, all the historical frustrations of the past could resurface.”
Kosovo's president on the wrong track
Der Standard examines the problems Kosovo's president is bringing on himself with the negotiations:
“In Kosovo itself, there is a lot of opposition to the deal because most Serbs live in the south. They fear that after the division they'll be even more cut off from Belgrade and face increased pressure from the Albanian majority society. This is also why the Orthodox church is against Vučić's deal. Many Kosovars are particularly angry about the way democracy is being trampled on and Thaçi is acting on his own. Moreover, it would be naive to believe that he is not susceptible to blackmail simply because of his war past.”