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Alexander Vucic
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic could change course on the Kosovo issue. © Darko Vojinovic/AP/dpa

For decades, almost nothing moved in the cold war between Serbia and Kosovo. A new Franco-German plan has the support of the West. Is Belgrade moving away from its destructive policies?

BELGRADE – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has hinted that he might accept the latest Franco-German plan to normalize relations with Kosovo. Western negotiators had given him the choice of accepting the plan or facing the consequences of breaking off EU accession talks and withdrawing foreign investment, he told a news conference broadcast live on television.

“If the choice is that we get sanctions – and what would be a worse sanction than disinvestment – or that we, on the other hand, immediately accept all that Kosovo’s UN membership means, then I am in favor of the way no matter how controversial it is,” Vucic explained.

Kosovo, now inhabited almost exclusively by Albanians, used to be part of Serbia. After an armed uprising by Kosovar Albanians and massive human rights violations by Serb security forces, NATO responded in the spring of 1999 with bombing raids on what was then the rest of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).

From 1999 to 2008, the UN Unmik administration administered the area. In 2008 the country declared itself independent. To this day, Serbia has not recognized this pass and claims the territory for itself. Western diplomatic efforts in recent years have not resulted in a significant normalization of the situation. Tensions recently escalated again in the form of roadblocks and shooting incidents.

Kosovo could become a member of the UN

The Franco-German plan became known in the fall of the previous year and was never officially published. But his key points have been known since he was introduced to the sides. Among other things, it stipulates that although Serbia and Kosovo will not formally recognize each other, they will mutually accept their statehood within current borders. In particular, Serbia would stop blocking Kosovo’s membership in international organizations with the active support of Russia.

Kosovo’s admission to the UN has so far failed due to a veto by Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. “There is no doubt that we support Kosovo’s membership in the UN, but de facto we would accept its membership,” Vucic continued.

“Nervousness in Europe” over the Ukraine war

If this were to happen, it would actually be a turning point in Vucic’s Kosovo policy, which has so far been based on Serb nationalism. “The geopolitical situation has changed,” he said. Due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, there is “nervousness in Europe”. “Backyard getaways” would no longer be tolerated. The Franco-German plan has long since become an EU plan, which also enjoys the support of the five member states that have not yet recognized Kosovo. These are Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus.

That is apparently why things are fermenting in the SNS presidential party. At a SNS board meeting last weekend, several participants voiced their opposition to a possible change of course. Vucic, who is also the head of the SNS, threatened to resign, after which all criticism fell silent, Serbian media reported.

On Monday night, Vucic stressed that nothing had been decided yet. In the end, the Serbian parliament and “perhaps the people” would have to have the last word. dpa

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