Kosovo is checking the strength of the Balkans

11:57 22.09.2011 • Armen Oganesyan , Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs

The Balkans often bring the most experienced politicians to a standstill. Here you feel yourself in a space from Kurosawa's famous movie "Rashomon," where everyone has their own truth, and the truth is bathed in blood. "Hate each other, but do not kill" - this strange call came from the mouth of the Croatian professor Zarko Puhovski at the First International Forum on Security, recently held in Belgrade. The professor believes that this is better than the hypocritical "love each other" and the external manifestations of tolerance, which was shown by the former elite and which tore Yugoslavia apart in front of the European Union.

There is an interesting detail - the Serbs do not go to the seaside in Croatia, preferring the friendlier and more intimate Montenegro. One diplomat said that he once dared to drive to Dubrovnik with Belgrade number plates. And he seriously regretted it, because to calm the situation on the border was possible only after he explained that he was not a Serb.

Will Europe help make peace in the Balkan States, and do they actually want this reconciliation? One has to agree with those who say that the concept of the Western Balkans, and, perhaps, the whole of the Balkans as an integrated region, no longer exists. With the entry of Croatia into the EU (and soon, perhaps, Bosnia) one cannot even talk about regional political, or economic and cultural integration.

The Serbia-Kosovo dilemma

As for Serbia, The Tadic government has taken an exclusively pro Brussels position, and does not see its future outside of the EU. All of the President's speech at the forum was in this spirit. However, the strict condition of Serbia joining the EU remains its agreement to recognize the independence of Kosovo. For Tadic this is not a trap, but a mantrap, because by making even technical steps towards Pristina, he not only risks losing the elections, but also losing all credibility among the vast majority of Serbs. Therefore Tadic, in the presence of high-ranking guests from Brussels and the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia, put forward just six points on which he considers the independence of Kosovo unacceptable from the point of view of international law and the UN Charter. However, he made it clear that there is no alternative to the entry of Serbia into the EU, and a compromise must be reached.

What is remarkable is the way that a forum on regional security issues, carefully avoided events in northern Kosovo, which reached a critical point during this time, by staying silent. During this time at the initiative of Russia and Serbia, the UN Security Council was offered a draft resolution on Kosovo for consideration, which was supported by many, but not accepted due to the position of Western countries. The format of the Belgrade Forum offered the possibility for statements from the audience, and the Russian Ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Konuzin, drew attention to this fact. When he was denied the opportunity to explain their position, the Russian ambassador left the room.

I must admit that Belgrade is under constant pressure due to the Kosovo dilemma. Just before the forum, Ms. Merkel recommended that the Serbian authorities exclude any possibility of parallel structures for Serb communities in Kosovo, even at the level of local self-government. The German Minister of Foreign Affairs, while in the region, said that the current borders in the Balkans remain immutable.

Anyone, even a little familiar with the history of the Balkans, could only smile at such speeches. But let's not be too hard: even experts experienced in world affairs and familiar with the Balkans feel themselves amateurs. Let’s take note of the so-called "narrow" specialists.

On the way to a "Greater Albania"

In 1999, the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill expressed the following thought: "We spent the 1990s in a stew over "Greater Serbia ", and now it's over. We enter the next century experiencing anxiety over a" Greater Albania "...

The academic Redjep Chosya, a leading Albanian intellectual, said in the U.S., that "Albania has never recognized its existing borders," that "these limits are unfair ... This border, touches the very heart of the Albanian people."

At the same time, the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army have repeatedly stated that the purpose of their work is to unite all the lands inhabited by Albanians.

According to Gallup polls, in January 2010, more than 70% of respondents in Albania and Kosovo called for the formation of a "Greater Albania." Many of them believe that the idea can be realized in the near future. By the end of 2010, the number of supporters of "Greater Albania" in Kosovo had increased to 81%, and they were joined by 53% of the Albanians living in Macedonia. According to a well-known Balkan expert, Peter Iskendarov of the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences "the Albanian diaspora in the U.S. is most active, lobbying for its interests in the" Albanization" of the Balkans ,including at the level of Congress, the White House Administration and U.S. intelligence. It is worth mentioning that during the years 1997-2004, at the height of the Kosovo crisis, the director of the CIA, George Tenet, was Albanian by birth. "

Why Germany needs the Balkans

German diplomatic activity in the Balkans, of course, is not accidental. Most recently, the Italian online newspaper L'Occidentale wrote on this subject: "Europe has long played a political role in the East as a way of taking control in Eurasia. Underlying this policy is a series of public programs developed at meetings in Brussels. The main geopolitical struggle in the Balkans is being carried out by Germany, whose purpose is to keep the region in the sphere of European influence, in particular due to the involvement of the Balkan countries in the EU. The rival to Germany in this process is, of course, Russia. Moscow wants to not only play the role of "protector" of Serbia in the international arena, but it is also trying to promote its own economic interests, in particular in the energy sector. In the "war" for Serbia, Russia seems to have been defeated, since Germany in recent years has become a major trading partner for Serbia and one of the largest investors in its economy ".

Surprisingly, almost none of the participants in the forum, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, commented on the economic crisis in the Euro zone and its impact on development in the region. But it should be recognized that Germany is more likely to sacrifice Greece rather than its own interests in the Balkans. Besides, there are historical reasons. Speaking of energy, the article in the Italian newspaper with the remarkable title "European, Russian and Turkish interests cross here," was of course, referring to the "South Stream", which will go through Serbia and several Balkan countries. One can assume that the "South Stream" will bring together the interests of Europe and Russia, because both exporters and consumers will be interested in the security of energy supplies. However, under certain conditions, it could serve as a deterrent to Russian activity in the Balkans.

Russian interest

In general, the Russian pro-European minded elite and Western Europe are cultivating several theses. Of these, there are two main ones. Firstly, for Russia the area is economically weak, and secondly, to ensure the interests of its energy companies, Russia will turn away from the Balkans, which it allegedly does not need anymore.

However, in the Balkans there are no lack Euro skeptics, not only in Serbia, and not only because of the financial and economic situation in the EU countries. The same professor Puhovski commented that the European and American policy in the Balkans should be treated with more criticism. He says, "I do not understand how our leaders who regularly travel to Washington, DC, can talk about a partnership. What kind of partnership can there be between the U.S. and Croatia, between the strong and the weak, between the rich and poor, between teacher and student."

Brussels came in for even bigger criticism. The professor said that, “the last thing I would like to be is in the rigid embrace of Brussels, as once we were in the arms of Moscow ...”

In general, it seems that the Balkans is frozen between a dramatic past and an uncertain future.


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