Bodo Weber, senior associate with the Berlin-based Democratization Policy Council, writes that the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia is putting at stake the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign affairs legacy. Weber says that Germany opposes the border correction idea between Kosovo and Serbia as an “ill-fated alliance of two Balkan authoritarian leaders with the EU foreign policy chief and the unpredictable Trump administration.”
He writes that secret negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina serve the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic as a way to use the political weakness of the EU to get as much as possible out of the dialogue framework. “At the same time, he seeks to move the attention from internal political problems.” As for President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, he “privatized negotiations” despite the resistance from all political parties “in the hope that he would escape the threat of an indictment from the Specialist Chambers.” Meanwhile, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini is “desperately trying to turn its failure into a success by turning her lack of principles into a principle”, Weber adds.
According to him, the potential regional consequences of an exchange of territories would be “unimaginable”. For the German Chancellor Merkel the current developments represent a sort of a final battles in the foreign and European policy. Inside the EU, Merkel and her foreign minister, the social democrat Heiko Maas have clearly opposed the idea. This position is supported by the majority of member states, including Spain and Slovakia, which do not recognise Kosovo,” Weber writes.
He remarks that in order to prevent a land swap agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, Merkel needs to retake her leading role in the political dialogue. “At the same time, she needs to make it publicly clear to both Belgrade and Pristina that in case an agreement on territorial exchange is signed, the EU membership perspective would be put off for a long time because of the threat to peace and democracy in the Western Balkans.”
“In addition, Berlin would have to gather behind other EU member states to support an initiative for restart of dialogue negotiations, in the initial framework of dialogue. It remains to be seen whether the 29 April summit, called by Chancellor Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, will be the first step in this direction,” he concludes.