Western Balkans – Lukewarm Or Too Hot to Handle?

Politics | May 3, 2021, Monday // 15:02|  views


As we predicted last week, more phantom non-papers emerged on Western Balkans in the wake of a mysterious document that kicked up a storm by proposing a radical redrawing of borders in the region.

Reportedly authored by Germany and France, a leaked document proposed that Kosovo and Serbia recognise each other while agreeing to create and an autonomous district in Serb-populated northern Kosovo.

This time though, the alleged authors promptly denied having anything to do with the document.

The highly unusual flurry of activity over documents whose authenticity everyone seemed eager to deny was made that much more peculiar by the fact it came just before visits to Brussels of the heads of state of the countries involved: North Macedonia, Serbia, and Kosovo.

There are two possible scenarios regarding the non-papers.

First, the documents were genuinely written by a concerned party, be it one of the mediators (read EU or US) or the countries involved to test the waters. Alternatively, the papers were written by a third country, an external actor, seeking to upset the delicate balance and wreak havoc in the already troubled region.

Either way, de novo, things are on the move in the Western Balkans.

One aspect worth highlighting relates to the ongoing struggle to reach a legally binding agreement between former arch-foes Serbia and Kosovo. Specifically, the reaction of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who holds one set of keys to its resolution.

Vučić decidedly rejected even seeing the first paper, whose proposed border changes would greatly benefit Belgrade.

It was all the more interesting in light of his reaction to the second document, for which he cryptically said it had been ‘written by a very clever woman’, without elaborating.

Meanwhile, during his Belgian visit, he was all too happy to shift the conversation to relatively inconsequential infrastructure projects.

Bottom line is, the papers have raised the working temperature across the Western Balkans and, while the region is hot, it’s high time for an EU push. If, however, Brussels opts to pour cold water on the region instead of shifting into higher gear, ambitions of this corner of Europe may just begin to rust.

Already, Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti said he would not attend a meeting with Vučić in May, proposed by EU top diplomat Josep Borrell to relaunch the Belgrade-Pristina talks.

Ultimately, if Brussels decides not to strike while the iron is hot, someone else just might pick up the hammer./Alexandra Brzozowski and Vlagyiszlav Makszimov | EURACTIV.com



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Tags: Western Balkans, borders, non-paper, redrawing


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