Kosovo’s borders – Is it Europe’s new Balkan dilemma?

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The presidents of Serbia and Kosovo made clear on Saturday they are considering border changes to reach a historic peace settlement and called on the European Union to provide crucial support for their efforts.

What does this mean for Europe?

Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner responsible for the Balkans, who was also on the panel, tried to walk a diplomatic tightrope — saying nothing should be excluded at this stage but urging the leaders to ensure any deal does not destabilize the wider region.



The European Union is grappling with a new Balkan dilemma.

This one is not on the scale of the predicament the EU faced in the 1990s, when leaders argued and agonized over how to respond to the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart, including whether to intervene militarily.

But the latest headache is over a legacy of those wars, the frozen conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, after the presidents of both countries announced at the weekend they want to discuss changing borders.

Officials and diplomats are still trying to get their heads around the implications of the announcement, which goes against longstanding Western policy. For years, EU and U.S. officials have argued that any change of borders in the volatile region could spark violent campaigns for other boundaries to be redrawn.

But faced with the desire of both presidents to break the taboo and the Trump administration’s willingness to entertain such a move, EU officials and diplomats have decided they cannot dismiss the plan out of hand — for now, at least.

EU diplomats say they fear a border change also carries risks of upheaval far beyond the Balkans, for example giving Russia fresh ammunition to argue that the West should also accept its annexation of Crimea.

Any border change would form part of a peace deal to tackle issues unresolved by the 1998-1999 war that ended Serb control of Kosovo. Serbia continues to regard Kosovo, whose population is mainly ethnic Albanian, as a rebel province and Belgrade’s ally Russia has blocked the country’s path to U.N. membership.

Both countries aspire to join the EU but Brussels has made clear they must resolve all bilateral disputes before that can happen.

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