Bieber: Land swap will get more attractive as opposition gets more nationalistic

Florian Bieber; Photo by University of Graz

BELGRADE – The idea of drawing the borders between two ethnicities sends a message that division is better than cooperation, writes Florian Bieber, professor of History and Politics of the South-eastern Europe at the University of Graz and coordinator of Balkan in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG).

In an op-ed for Serbian weekly NIN, Bieber emphasises that division of Kosovo is a “cynical division”, in which “both sides think they will fool the other one”.

“The contrast with Prespa agreement between Macedonia and Greece could not have been bigger. There we had two Prime Ministers who negotiated, worked together, found common ground… The idea of changing the borders, on the other hand, sounds like an idea in which nobody would be ready for a compromise”, Bieber writes.

He said that the discussion on “border change” has become attractive to decision-makers in the West because of the lack of real alternative, but also that they will support the idea if the only alternative remains nationalistic opposition.

“Brussels dialogue has lacked energy and progressed without clear ideas, deadlines or strong direction during the past years… Success of the division idea is the result of those weaknesses”, argues Bieber.

He reminds that he assessed the idea of division as dangerous and not in accordance with the interests of Serbia and Serbs in Kosovo in his text for the same weekly from March this year.

“The tragedy of Serbia and Kosovo is that large parts of the opposition have taken the bait of this discussion… Nationalistic arguments against exchange of territories only work in Vučić’s and Thaçi’s favour. They look more European and more moderate because of them”, he points out.

According to him, rejection of Kosovo’s independence presents denying of reality, because nobody that talks about “defence of Kosovo” is able to offer any way for it to become part of Serbia again.

“It would be more useful if an alternative agreement with Kosovo is offered. In stead of trying to take Vučić down with a nationalistic agenda, opposition should offer a constructive approach that would take into account Serbs from the central Kosovo, who would be left out of “corrected” borders. Independent Kosovo that protects those Serbs and new relations based on mutual respect… would be the best protection for both Serbian minority and Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo”, Bieber concludes.