Land swap between Kosovo and Serbia?

The discussion about a possible land swap between Kosovo and Serbia demonstrates the relevance of territory I this context. Not only the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo are involved in the discussion, but also the international community. While the US seems to be open to an attempt of resolving the conflict by a border demarcation between Kosovo and Serbia, countries such as Germany are more reluctant.

A land swap would, of course, also affect the people living in the region, an aspect often ignored in the debate:

“One irony behind the mooted exchange is that most Kosovo Serbs actually live in enclaves in the south of Kosovo. So the agreement would not leave them living in Serbia, and they would probably have to leave their homes or else be driven out. But Serbian officials may be less concerned about their countrymen than about taking steps towards recognizing Kosovo—and thus making their own hoped-for accession to the European Union (EU) easier.” (The Economist, 19 February 2018).

Also Serbs living in Serbia might be resistant to an exchange of territories. According to our data, even though not representative, nearly 70% of Serbs living in Serbia fear that Kosovo will never be part of Serbia again; an actual swap would make this fear even more real, meaning that “Kosovo is lost forever” (The Guardian, 3 September 2018).

At the same time, while about 40% of Serbs in these non-representative data think that Kosovo is of great importance, only 7% of Serbs would consider moving there. In case of a land swap, however, some Serbs living in the southern part of Serbia might have to live in Kosovo. This illustrates the complexity of territorial ownership – at least in some regions.

Written by Nora Storz