Kosovo President Hashim Thaci yesterday rejected a land swap proposal with Serbia, saying he would "never trade the territories of Kosovo" but that he would consider border corrections in order to normalize relations.
Serbian officials first floated the idea of a land swap last year. It was dismissed by the Kosovo Albanian leadership as unacceptable and most of the international community as too dangerous. Critics say such a deal would open old wounds in a region still scarred by the ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. Though the details have not been officially outlined, the land swap would likely see Kosovo's Serb-dominated north traded for a southern valley in Serbia that is mainly ethnic-Albanian, like the rest of Kosovo.
Serbia started EU membership negotiations in 2014 and reconciliation with Kosovo is one of the central conditions of accession. EU-led talks between Serbia and Kosovo ground to a halt last year. The nub of the dispute is Belgrade's denial of the independence of Kosovo, a former province of deep historical and cultural significance to Serbs that broke away in a bloody 1998-1999 war. The Brussels-led dialogue collapsed several months after talk of possible border changes between the neighbors triggered a stinging backlash last summer. Critics warned that redrawing the map would be a risky business in the fragile Balkans, a region still recovering from its 1990s wars.