BuzzFeed: Trump changing borders in the Balkans

Until only recently, almost all Western powers opposed changing of the state borders in the Balkans, but then Trump came, and everything changed – BuzzFeed writes.

The website reports that the European officials are very worried about the possible destabilization of the Western Balkans over the Kosovo issue. Namely, all the main EU members are opposed to any changes made to the borders in the Balkans, and until not so long ago, the US administration shared the same view.

“European officials are concerned the Trump administration’s hands-off approach to diplomacy could risk destabilizing a tinderbox region in Southeast Europe”, they report.

Citing two anonymous diplomatic sources, whereas according to the first source, northern parts of Kosovo, where tens of thousands of Serbs currently live, would be exchanged for land in southern Serbia where the majority of Albanians live. According to this source, this plan is supported by the Serbian government.

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However, European governments fear that such a plan could end up destabilizing a region that just 25 years ago witnessed a civil war, the biggest war on European soil after the World War II.

An unnamed French diplomat said the very idea of discussing borders is destabilizing. “Borders are explosive. You just don’t know what happens when you touch borders.”

Germany, meanwhile, is strongly opposed to the land swap idea. And, until recently, so was the US. But current and former diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic feel that the Trump administration has adopted a more relaxed attitude toward international relations, where nations are invited to resolve disputes among themselves, and on that basis, a deal between Kosovo and Serbia would probably be favored over territorial integrity.

BuzzFeed reminds that, only recently, the Kosovo President, Hashim Thaci gave a statement for Associated Press in which he said that he rejected the idea of dividing the country along ethnic lines, but that he was open to discussing “a correction” of borders as the two countries head into the next round of the EU-mediated talks in September.

According to people close to political circles in Belgrade, Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic is paving the way for a deal.

“There is a political positioning that compromise is in the offing,” Ivan Vejvoda, a former senior adviser on foreign policy and European integration to Serbian prime ministers Zoran Djindjic and Zoran Zivkovic, told BuzzFeed News, referring to Vučić’s interview.

“Politically, Vucic has such high approval, he can push through what he wants. He just needs to extract, as he says, something from nothing. Public opinion is ready for any kind of solution, and to then get on with life, provided there are guarantees for Serbs in Kosovo and for the Orthodox Church,” Vejvoda said.

“Whatever you call it, a partition, land swap, a correction of borders, and so on, the issue has always been in the background. There have been occasional talks since the 2000s behind the scenes. Though officially it was never an option, it was talked about”, Vejvoda adds.

One Western diplomat based in the Balkans said he thought it “unlikely” that the Trump administration was actively supporting the idea of a land swap or partition.

However, what’s unsettling longtime Balkan watchers isn’t so much the US actively supporting the idea or not, but the lack of a clear US position, and a sense that the administration is taking a back seat in the region.

(Nedeljnik, 13.04.2018)

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