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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic appeared before the public with a serious expression: he was under enormous pressure, he said in the press conference broadcast live on television. Western negotiators had given him the choice of accepting the latest Franco-German plan to normalize relations with Kosovo – or accepting the consequences of breaking off EU accession negotiations and withdrawing foreign investment. In view of the threat of “sanctions” he was in favor of “the path of compromise, no matter how controversial it may be”, he prepared his compatriots for a U-turn in Kosovo policy.

The Franco-German plan, which became known last autumn, envisages, among other things, that while Serbia and Kosovo do not formally recognize each other, they will mutually accept their state existence within the current borders. In particular, Serbia should stop blocking Kosovo’s membership in international organizations.

“Nothing is decided yet”

Vucic emphasized that nothing had been decided yet. In the end, the Serbian parliament and “perhaps the people” should have the last word. At the same time, however, he justified the necessary change in the nationalist Serbian Kosovo policy. “The geopolitical situation has changed,” said the President. Because of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, there is “nervousness in Europe”. “Escapades in one’s own backyard” would no longer be tolerated, he said, alluding to Serbia’s proximity to Russia. Serbia must take part in the international dialogue: “Without this dialogue we would be economically and politically lost, and as president I would not be willing to lead a country that is alone and isolated.”

Kosovo, which is now almost exclusively inhabited by Albanians, used to belong to Serbia. After an armed uprising by the Kosovar Albanians and massive human rights violations by the Serbian security forces, NATO reacted in spring 1999 with bombings in what was then the rest of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). From 1999 to 2008, the UN administration UNMIK managed the area. In 2008 the country declared itself independent. To this day, Serbia has not recognized this step and continues to claim the territory for itself. Recently, tensions had escalated again in the form of road blockades and incidents of shelling, once again approaching the brink of war.

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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