The exchange of territory between Serbia and Kosovo "would be extremely dangerous," Miroslav Lajčak, the European Union special envoy for the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations, told the French Le Monde newspaper on Wednesday.
He added that the dialogue was delayed because of Kosovo, but that the EU was glad about the restored crucially important unity towards the Western Balkans between the bloc and the US.
„Nothing is over until it’s over,“ Lajčak said about the efforts to reach a comprehensive and legally binding agreement between the two sides.
He added he saw that people in President Joseph Biden’s administration in charge of the Balkans „feel historical responsibility in their country’s political and human engagement in the region.“
Asked what Serbia could expect after the normalisation of relations with Pristina, Lajčak said that „both Serbia and Kosovo know that normalisation is a precondition, but the EU has promised integration if the criteria are met and the necessary reforms implemented.“
Lajčak added that the EU persisted on the enlargement, „but one should not believe that it will come automatically. The countries in the Western Balkans must convince the Union members with reforms.“
He said the EU renewed the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue „not by starting technical negotiations, but to reach a comprehensive and binding agreement“.
„No problem should be left aside, as has been the case in the past, such as financial claims or property disputes. Both sides know well what is being negotiated,“ but, „nothing is resolved until everything is resolved,“ Lajčak said.
The EU special envoy added the dialogue was not possible due to the upcoming elections in Kosovo and said: „We hope we will continue negotiations as soon as a new government is formed (in Pristina).“
Asked about the opposition to the exchange of territories between Serbia and Kosovo, Lajcak replied that the region’s countries were against it „because they fear that it could cause events beyond any control“.
Besides, the EU, he added, had invested a lot in the policy of „Europeanisation and Inclusion of the Balkans in the European family,“ which meant building multiethnic democratic societies.“
„The redrawing borders is contrary to that idea and would mean that we have failed,“ Lajčak warned.
Asked about China’s growing influence in the Balkans, he said the EU is the largest trading partner, the largest investor in the Western Balkans, and provided the most aid.
„The countries of that region are harmonising their systems with European standards, and as long as the European perspective of that area is strong, clear and tangible, we should not get excited… It cannot offer more than us,“ the EU special envoy said about China.