“Serbia and Kosovo are a long way from a comprehensive peace settlement, despite having opened talks on a possible land swap to smooth a deal”, says Serbian PM, Ana Brnabic for the Financial Times.
“Personally, I’d like some kind of agreement as soon as possible. But I do not think that in reality, we are anywhere near an agreement,” Brnabic adds.
The PM also said she disagreed that such a deal would open a “Pandora’s box” in the Balkans, a region whose modern history has been plagued with ethnic and territorial disputes. “Pandora’s box was opened exactly 10 years ago when countries recognised the independence of Kosovo. What we’re trying to do is to close that Pandora’s box. You can’t say that 10 years ago we were ready to change borders, but today we can’t talk about changing borders,” she said. A land swap, even if agreed, would not be enough for a peace deal, she warned.
“It’s one part of a potential final settlement. But the final agreement, if reached, will have to be much more comprehensive. It will have to include human rights, minority rights, economic co-operation, long-term co-operation between Serbs and Albanians, learning each other’s language and cultural heritage, churches and monasteries.”
The premier’s cautionary remarks serve as a reminder that extremely delicate cultural, historical, political and territorial issues are under discussion between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo, and progress is far from guaranteed despite US and EU support for the dialogue. “I often say that we are currently stuck in a bit of a schizophrenic position, which is between 21st-century politics and 19th-century politics,” Brnabic said, referring to the occasional outbreak of ethnic tensions and even violence this year in Kosovo.
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She said that Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders were making a profound mistake if they presumed that the dialogue with Belgrade would result in formal Serbian recognition of Kosovo’s independence. “When they think that, ‘Yes, Serbia’s just going to recognise our independence’, well, it’s obviously not going to happen,” Ms Brnabic said and added: “They need to move from their comfortable position and meet us halfway, where we are waiting for them. Let’s make a compromise, whatever that compromise might entail.”
The lack of unanimity among EU governments on Kosovo’s status means that a “long-term normalisation agreement” between Belgrade and Pristina would be sufficient to permit Serbia’s entry, she contended. PM Brnabic underlined there was Serbia’s interest in a deal, saying: “Each day that we lose in this frozen conflict is a day that could have been won for a more stable, prosperous future for all of us.”
She was speaking on Thursday on the sidelines of a conference at Oxford University, and one day earlier, she held talks in Minsk with Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s president.
Speaking about Serbia’s EU membership talks, the Serbian PM said: “I would love it if we were able to join by 2025, but this is a very ambitious target. I think it is much more important that we are ready to join, rather than to join if we are not fully ready. If you are not fit for the EU, it’s a lose-lose situation. The EU becomes weaker, and your own country becomes weaker as well.”
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