Kosovo Opposition Wants EU to Reject 'Ethnic' Borders

W460

Kosovo opposition parties called Thursday on the European Union to reject "publicly and clearly" border changes with Serbia that would be made on an "ethnic basis."

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic in recent months signaled an openness to what they called "border adjustments" to resolve their longstanding difference over Kosovo's independence.

However, the two presidents have not laid out any detailed plans.

Local media report on a possible exchange of northern Kosovo, inhabited mostly by ethnic Serbs around the divided town of Mitrovica, and the Presevo valley, a majority ethnic Albanian area in southern Serbia.

But Kosovo opposition parties, in a letter to EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, labeled such plans "not only destabilizing for the region as they would have a chain effect on territorial changes, but would also be unimplementable and would cause further frozen conflicts in our region."

"We expect that you will publicly and clearly reject territorial redrawing on ethnic basis between Kosovo and Serbia."

Washington and Brussels have left the door open for talks on the exchange of territory.

But critics warn such a scenario could lead to a series of territorial claims in the volatile Balkans, a region devastated by wars in the 1990s, notably by Macedonia's ethnic Albanians and Bosnian Serbs.

Also, although being a minority, ethnic Albanians live in Mitrovica's northern part while the Presevo valley is home to ethnic Serbs as well.

Signatories of the letter said they expected Mogherini to "publicly and clearly reject territorial redrawing on ethnic basis between Kosovo and Serbia".

The letter was signed by officials of the usually divided Kosovo Democratic League (LDK), nationalist leftist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) party, the Social Democratic Party and liberal Alternativa.

The opposition has 58 deputies in the 120-seat assembly which also has 10 ethnic Serb MPs.

Within the ruling coalition, the opposition to any exchange of territory is also strong.

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has warned it could lead to a "war."

Earlier this month, while visiting majority-Serb parts of Kosovo, Vucic dismissed any quick solution and said no plan was being discussed.

Vucic also provoked anger of Pristina praising late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic as a "great Serbian leader."

Milosevic had to withdraw Serbian troops from Kosovo after a NATO-led bombing campaign that ended the 1998-1999 war with Kosovo pro-independence guerrillas.

The conflict claimed 13,000 lives.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade still does not recognize the move.

Serbia needs a deal with Pristina to move forward in EU accession talks, while Kosovo is hoping that recognition from Belgrade that would unlock its path into the United Nations.

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