Lajčák without Kosovo on the Map, negligence or political message?

“You’ll need to change that, with Kosovo,” former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, told children in southwestern France, pointing to a map of Europe, in 2008. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, you’ll need to change that map, with Kosovo”.

This is a tweet of Abit Hoxha, a media scholar, who noticed the missing detail on the background of the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue office.

Lajčák was on a virtual meeting with Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Majlinda Bregu. The old map was placed behind Lajčák.

13 years after the declaration independence, debates on the recognition of Kosovo occupy not only traditional media, but even social media lately.

But, was that map with that geography – without Kosovo in it – negligence or was it a direct political message?

“I think this is related to the position that Mr. Lajčák himself has against Kosovo, not the European position. The EU official is known for such symbolic ‘gaffes’. He has done this also when he sat alongside the Serbian side during one of the dialogue meetings between Kosovo and Serbia”, says Abit Hoxha, who has explained for Albanian Post further details on the “map problem”.

On the other side, the Lead spokesperson for the external affairs of the EU, Peter Stano, in a statement for Albanian Post, affirms that “the claim is totally taken out of context”. “This official EU map, is in line with the European position – status neutral.”

“The claims about the map in some local media are false. The official EU map in the office of the EUSR is – in line with the EU position – status neutral. I would recommend everyone to focus on real issues that help to move ahead with the Dialogue on normalization, instead of trying to make up false stories.” was Stano’s reaction for Albanian Post.

Along with the statement for Albanian Post, Stano also tweeted his stance.

Just like against Lajčák, Hoxha replied to him too

“How can this be a false claim when you have a map with Kosovo as a part of Serbia? Neutral status? Are you serious”, Hoxha tweets.

“I don’t think that what Stano says is a very good message for the dialogue”, the scholar adds. “It’s not neutrality if 21 years of change are neglected in such way. The map was placed there symbolically on purpose”.

In fact, in other photos of Lajčák on Twitter, the map does not figure anywhere. This pushes Hoxha to think that it was placed there purposely.

Miroslav Lajčák with two pictures on the background, without the map
Different maps in Miroslav Lajčák’s office

Or, in other cases, there is a map, but it looks differently.

“I don’t think the dialogue has a good perspective with such neutrality, when Kosovo, even if only symbolically, is represented as a Serbian Territory. Why dialogue then”, concludes Hoxha.

The case has encouraged other reactions

Twitter is turning in a battleground with comments on Lajčák’s photos. Political scientists and scholars on the Balkan region has expressed the reactions against the EU official.

Stephen Israel, ex journalist and expert on the Balkan politics tweets: “Kosovo as a part of Serbia is a neutral status?”

Loïc Tregoures, political scientist, describes this as “a conflict full of symbols and very concrete dimensions like borders and territory.” “How the hell can we have such a map of the region behind him? Put 2 maps or don’t put any.”

A reaction also came from the expert of the Balkan politics, Florian Bieber. “Yes, having such a map in your office with such a job description is a major gaffe.”

“Of course there are more important issues. But optics matters and while it is hard to read the map, it can be (mis0)understood easily. Here are some better options: Status Neutral throughout or The official EU map.”

A reaction from Majlinda Bregu is yet to come on the topic. From Lajčák also.

Meanwhile, the debate continues and the dilemma is there. Why is that map in Lajčák’s office?

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