22nd May 2022

Serbia open to EU compromise on Kosovo

Cracks in Serbia's long-uncompromising position on Kosovo appeared on the weekend as President Boris Tadic said his country is open to discussing a compromise over its UN General Assembly resolution.

In July, following a ruling by the International Court of Justice that Kosovo's 2008 unilateral declaration of independence was not in violation of international law, Belgrade submitted a resolution with the General Assembly declaring "unilateral secession is not an acceptable way to solve territorial issues" and calling for a "mutually acceptable solution to all open issues".

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A success for Serbia in the General Assembly would only be a moral victory, as the resolution is non-binding, but many EU capitals are unhappy with the route Belgrade has chosen.

Last week, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle bluntly told Serbia: "Kosovar independence is a reality," and: "The map of southeastern Europe has been laid down and completed."

He also suggested that Belgrade's acquiescence on this fact was necessary before Serbia could join the EU, despite five existing member states refusing to recognise the breakaway region.

On Saturday however, Mr Tadic said that Serbian officials are to head to Brussels to "talk about possible changes to the draft resolution that would be acceptable to both Serbia and big powers."

Belgrade is looking for a compromise "that will remain in line with Serbia's national interests but will also please big powers," he said.

He added however: "Serbia will never recognise Kosovo. That is a red line that we will not cross,"

Mr Tadic's comments echo those of other members of the governing coalition. The Serbian Renewal Movement and G17 Plus two weeks ago called for changes to the resolution to assure that it is in line with an EU perspective.

"It would be better to change the text and garner the support of as many EU member countries as possible, rather than go after the votes of the non-aligned [in the UN General Assembly]," G17 Plus deputy president Suzana Grubjesic said.

The resolution also calls for fresh talks between Belgrade and Pristina without referring to Kosovo's status. Kosovo for its part has said it would accept a dialogue with Belgrade, but only one that does not question its independence.

On Thursday, the International Crisis Group, a think-tank with considerable clout on the world stage, issued a report suggesting that one possible solution for breaching the impasse could be a land-swap between the two sides, in which Serb-dominated northern Kosovo is traded for parts of Serbia's Presevo Valley, home to many Albanians.

However, on Friday, Hashim Thaci, Kosovo's prime minister, rejected the suggestion, while Oliver Ivanovic, Serbia's minister for Kosovar affairs, said such a move was out of the question, telling Radio Free Europe that northern Kosovo is already under "de facto and de jure control of the Serbian community, and there is no reason to contemplate any exchanges."

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