More than 30 NGOs from both Kosovo and Serbia sent an open letter to the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urging her to make an unambiguous statement against the division of Kosovo.
In a letter sent on Tuesday, 37 non-governmental organizations from Kosovo and Serbia – including some from Kosovo’s majority-Serb north – called on Federica Mogherini to make a clear stand against Kosovo’s partition or an exchange of territories with Serbia along ethnic lines – a suggestion that has been widely debated in recent days.
“More frequent mentions of the possibility of redrawing the borders send a very dangerous message to the citizens of Serbia and Kosovo, as well as to the entire region, that there is a real possibility of legitimising the dangerous propaganda of ethnic ownership over territory – a principle that has pushed the region on several occasions into bloody conflicts,” the letter says.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Belgrade has refused to recognize, and EU-mediated talks on normalisation of relations were launched in Brussels in 2011. Since June this year, both sides have stated that the talks are entering the final stage.
As BIRN has previously reported, talk of an exchange of territories – swapping Albanian-majority areas in southern Serbia for Serb-majority ones in northern Kosovo – has grown more frequent among some Serbian and Kosovo politicians, although it has never been an official topic of discussion during the official Pristina-Belgrade dialogue in Brussels.
In Kosovo, the suggested partition has drawn criticism from both ruling and opposition parties, while in Serbia, one of the most vocal critics of partition of Kosovo and exchange of territories has been the highly influential Serbian Orthodox Church.
The NGOs that signed the letter, including Serbia’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, YUCOM, the Humanitarian Law Centre and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights’ Serbia and Kosovo offices, warned that solutions such as partition or exchange of territories could lead to a new exodus of civilians.
“Such developments would inevitably produce a chain reaction in other Balkan states and lead to numerous requests for changes in borders in the Balkans, which opens the door to new conflicts,” the letter says.
“This would also send a dangerous message to all Serbs and Albanians which are living on the ‘wrong side’ of ‘their’ ethnic states, which could lead to another exodus of the population in the Balkans,” it adds.
The NGOs urged the Kosovo and Serbia authorities and the international community to ensure the crimes of the past are not repeated, and to help establish proper democracies to prepare the ground for a peaceful future.
“Ethnically clean countries, an outdated 19th-century model, must not be the goals of any policy, nor should they be tolerated and supported by representatives of the international community,” the letter says.
“Any state that is based on discrimination and divides citizens on any ground is sentenced to failure in advance,” it adds.