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EU tries to roll up Kosovo map flap

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

Top official’s backdrop depicting Balkan borders kicks off cartographical kerfuffle.

Even if you don’t know much about the Balkans, you might know that borders and maps are a rather sensitive issue there.

But Miroslav Lajčák, the EU’s top official for the region, seemed caught by surprise when a map in his office sparked a storm of criticism from Kosovo and further afield.

Lajčák ended up having to tweet out close-up photos of the map on Thursday to try to prove that it’s not meant to define Kosovo as part of Serbia.

The trouble began after Lajčák tweeted a picture earlier this month of him taking part in a videoconference, in front of a map that appeared to place Kosovo inside Serbia’s international borders. Lajčák, the EU’s special representative for dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo and the Western Balkans, apparently used the same backdrop for an interview with a think tank a couple of weeks later.

Observers branded the use of the map an insensitive gaffe.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a war that killed thousands and effectively ended Serb control of the territory. It has been recognized as an independent state by around 100 countries, including 22 of the EU’s 27 members.

But Serbia regards Kosovo as a rebel province and, with the support of Russia and China, has blocked its path to U.N. membership. As its members are split on the issue, the EU as a whole does not take a position on Kosovo’s status — but the map behind Lajčák was interpreted by Kosovans as a reflection of Belgrade’s stance.

“Maps matter!” Kosovo’s foreign minister, Meliza Haradinaj, tweeted at Lajčák, adding she had sent him an “accurate map” by diplomatic courier. She said working with “zombie maps” was “utterly unprofessional.”

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A spokesman for the EU’s diplomatic service initially tried to play down the issue, claiming the map was “status neutral” and telling people “to focus on real issues that help to advance the Dialogue … instead of trying to make up false stories.”

But that only whipped up the storm and Lajčák later tweeted out the close-ups to try to calm it down — not entirely successfully.
Critics pointed out that the line between Kosovo and Serbia appeared to be thinner than the one used for international borders.

The episode surprised analysts as Lajčák, a former foreign minister of Slovakia, has deep experience with the Balkans. Some observers also thought he might have been more alive to the issue as his country only regained its own place on the map in recent decades.

“Nice map you got there. Is Slovakia still under Chekoslovakia? [sic]” one Twitter user asked.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/kosovo-serbia-map-eu/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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