Croatia's stance is that the proposal for territory exchange is not good for the stability of southeast Europe, Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejcinovic-Buric said on Wednesday in Banja Luka, commenting on the idea on changing the border between Serbia and Kosovo, announced as part of efforts to improve relations between the two countries.
The idea of a territory exchange between Serbia and Kosovo, which surfaced this month, suggests that Serbia take control of northern Kosovo while giving up the southern Serbian region of Presevo Valley, the centre of Albanian community in Serbia which borders on Kosovo.
Officially, both sides have opposed the suggestion. United States said they would accept the solution as long as both sides agreed, while Germany and Austria have expressed concerns over possible border changes.
Pejcinovic-Buric participated in the informal meeting of Foreign Ministers of countries in the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP), held in Banja Luka, the capital of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska.
SEECP, founded in 1996 in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, aims to strengthen relations among the countries of southeast Europe and transform the region into an area of peace, security, stability, and cooperation.
Members of the initiative include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia, and Kosovo.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic attended the meeting as well, while Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli cancelled his appearance after the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, objected to his presence.
“Opening the issue of borders may solve one problem, but open up many other, and we are very cautious in regards to any possible solutions which would be based on that, without taking into account the aspect of stability and security in the region,” Pejcinovic-Buric said, adding that the exchange of territory may open up the issue in other parts of Europe.
Last week, three former High Representatives for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Carl Bildt, Paddy Ashdown, and Christian Schwarz-Schilling, warned about the possible dangers of territory exchanges between Serbia and Kosovo.
“There is no doubt that this agreement would put at risk the current negotiations (elsewhere), such as the one in Macedonia, as well as undermine the unity of a country such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, and encourage those who wish an exchange of territory to take place in, for example, Ukraine, and will probably lead to an exodus of minorities from their current places of residence,” the diplomats wrote in an open letter to Federica Mogherini, a High Representative of EU for Foreign Policy.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, with mixed international recognition. Out of 28 EU member states, 23 have recognised Kosovo’s independence, including Croatia.
Serbia has not recognised Kosovo, and EU, which has acted as intermediary in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, has conditioned both countries’ EU membership on resolving their bilateral problems.