Durrës, Albania | Aug 29 (Tirana Echo) – A top EU official has hinted the European Union may accept a possible border deal between Kosovo and Serbia if agreed bilaterally first, in direct contradiction to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had earlier said that borders in the Balkans are inviolable.
EU Neighborhood & Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn made his comments in the Albanian port city of Durrës during an informal meeting of Balkan leaders when asked about the EU stance on a land swap deal between Kosovo and Serbia.
“We will not accept any new members in the union unless they have solved their bilateral disputes first. What matters for us is stability in the region, and any new bilateral deal should not undermine the overall regional stability,” – said Hahn in Durrës.
A day earlier, the EU Commissioner said Brussels should accept an agreement between Serbs and ethnic Albanians to settle their long-standing dispute over Kosovo.
“It’s about a bilateral solution which should not serve as a blueprint for other issues, and once there is an agreement, it should be respected” Hahn said at a press conference in Austria with the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia, Hashim Thaçi and Aleksandar Vučić, according to Euractiv.
Comments from the top EU official come days after White House national-security adviser Amb. John Bolton told RFE/RL the United States will not oppose a possible exchange of territories between Kosovo and Serbia as long as both Prishtina and Belgrade agree to a “mutually satisfactory settlement”.
Belgrade and Prishtina are involved in ongoing EU mediated talks to sort out their differences, while Serbia is under pressure to recognize its former province as an independent country before it can consider joining the European Union. The two Presidents are expected to meet in Brussels next week for the upcoming round of negotiations.
After the possibility of a land swap deal was elaborated by Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić, Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci indicated he would accept to discuss about the unification of the Presevo Valley region with Kosovo at the next round of talks in Brussels.
Although Thaçi maintains that Kosovo’s territorial integrity would not be threatened, he has suggested there could be a “correction of the borderline with Serbia and unification of the Presevo valley with Kosovo.”
Ethnic Albanians form an overwhelming majority of the residents in the Presevo Valley, as well as in southern Serbia’s nearby regions of Bujanovac and Medvedja, while the north part of Kosovo around the Mitrovica area, is home to around 50,000 ethnic Serbs, who recognize Belgrade as their government.
Critics have warned that a change of borders in the Balkans could start off a spiral of destabilizing moves across other fragile countries, notably Bosnia & Herzegovina and Macedonia.
During a press conference last week, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced her opposition to fresh border changes in the Balkans.
“The territorial integrity of the states of the Western Balkans has been established and is inviolable,” Merkel said during a press conference in Berlin with Denis Zvizdić, the prime minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
However, comments made by EU Commissioner Hahn, indicate the Union may have agreed with the United States to accept a land swap deal between Belgrade and Prishtina, which would eventually lead to a recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Serbia, and consequently assure the recognition of the new state by 5 remaining EU members – Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania.
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