Among youngsters in the Serbian capital, views range from staunch opposition to recognition of Kosovo’s independence to interest in an agreement. Photo: Beta
While the European Union’s High Representative, Federica Mogherini says, she still expects Serbia and Kosovo to reach an agreement, tensions in the region remain acute some 20 years after NATO intervention forced Serbia to withdraw from its former province.
The long-term stakes in the negotiations are high for both parties, as a mutually agreeable settlement on Kosovo would unlock both countries’ paths towards EU membership.
Among youngsters in the Serbian capital, views range from staunch opposition to recognition of Kosovo’s independence to interest in an agreement – provided that Serbia gains full control over Serb-majority parts of northern Kosovo.
Some, but not many, are ready to reach any deal with Kosovo in order for Serbia to build a more prosperous future.
“Serbia should recognise Kosovo’s independence because our economy is failing,” reasoned Marija, a 21-year-old student at the Belgrade Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy.
“All the attention is on Kosovo, so other parts of Serbia have been forgotten,” she added.
She maintained that a failure to reach an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina would be a lost opportunity for Serbia to build a better life in its rural areas and small towns, which, according to the World Bank, have high poverty rates.
Not all Serbian students share Marija’s feeling of urgency about resolving Kosovo’s final status, however.
“A ‘frozen conflict’ is the solution,” suggested David, also 21, from the Faculty of Political Science.
“Right now we can only lose,” he added, insisting that Serbia should never recognise Kosovo’s independence.
“We should wait for Kosovo to lose the support of the international community,” agreed politics student, Aleksandar, 21, who spoke of Kosovo not in terms of years but of centuries.
“The Battle of Kosovo [with the Ottomans] took place in 1389 but we only reclaimed Kosovo [from the Ottoman Empire] in 1912. So we know how to wait for a long time,” he asserted.