Nato is unsure of itself, the EU is divided as never before, Russia is on the front foot, and the myriad disputes in the Balkans remain unresolved. And yet, 20 years after the Kosovo War, western powers are not paying attention to a region that remains a powder keg.
In the summer of 1999, 50,000 Nato troops entered the Serbian province of Kosovo following a 78-day aerial bombing campaign. The Serbian military had been forced to retreat after Nato sided with the Kosovo Liberation Army.
They were heady days. The Americans and British, led by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, saw the outcome as a victory for humanitarian intervention, as outlined in Mr Blair’s famous “Chicago speech” a few days after the bombing started. It was a theme he returned to in the lead-up to the Iraq War of 2003.
I was only ten years old, in Croatia on the swelteringly hot day British troops crossed the border from Macedonia. But, the night before, I had watched on TV a Russian armoured column rumble through the capital, Pristina, on its way to take the Slatina military airbase before Nato could get there. It had travelled 600 kilometres from Bosnia, using a training exercise as cover for its movement.
My family drew different conclusions from Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blair. I saw a rare example of air power alone achieving a military victory, and was relieved at the Serbian surrender, as a ground war would have been devastating for both sides. I also was convinced that I had just witnessed the moment when, after a decade of the tide of Russian power rolling out, it began to roll back in.
For the Americans and British, the success of Kosovo was followed in 2001 by a well-executed Nato peacekeeping deployment in Macedonia, and the British intervention in Sierra Leone. But then came Iraq and Libya. With their fingers, and two countries horribly burnt, so-called humanitarian intervention was off the table, and most Nato powers remain cautious when it comes to committing to action.
At the same time, the EU is attempting to flex its limited military muscles and to forget its hapless response as the war in Bosnia was about to break out in 1992.
Jacques Poos, the then prime minister of Luxembourg, said: “This is the hour of Europe.” Jacques Delors, the EU Commission chairman, added: “We do not interfere in American affairs. We hope they will have enough respect not to interfere in ours.”
They then dithered for three years, amid a huge loss of life until the US stepped in. Now, Moscow may have concluded that the degree of delusion about EU’s military and diplomatic powers remains intact.
To Moscow, Kosovo marked 10 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the diminishing of Russian power. Moscow was helpless to come to Serbia’s aid. It was also determined that humiliation would be its last. Getting to the airport first, and making itself a player in what happened next, was a small victory, but one upon which Russia built.
The Second Chechen War was launched in October to avenge the ignominy of the first, then, two months later, Vladimir Putin came to power and the military budget grew rapidly. Military success in Chechnya in 2002 was followed by Georgia in 2008, Crimea in 2014 and Syria since 2015.
Two decades on, Nato is war-weary and Russia is back on the world stage. But Moscow knows that, with a declining population and an economy reliant on energy sources that are slowly running down, it will struggle to maintain its current level of strength. Hence, it may be tempted to achieve some foreign policy goals relatively quickly. If that is the case, the Balkans presents a stage on which it can still play.
The politics of this was not on the minds of Kosovan-Albanians' minds this summer, as they marked the 20th anniversary of the war. Mr Clinton was the most high-profile guest, and it is a fair bet that some of the young men in the crowds were named 'Tonibler' after the former British prime minister.
There is much to celebrate in Kosovo and indeed Serbia – an end to the mass killing, and the birth of democracy. However, the ongoing tensions between the two, and indeed their neighbours, mean that the situation is never more than an “incident” away from escalating.
This is why 3,500 troops remain on the ground even though several Nato members, including the US, are mulling a drawdown. Western attention is at best fitful, and this is a mistake. When Europe takes its eye off the Balkans, things rarely go well.
Serbia and Kosovo remain hostile to one another, to the extent that the 2018 announcement of plans for a Kosovan army brought the threat of war from Belgrade. Several times in the past two years, the Serbian army has been put on full alert, and moved elite forces to the border.
It could have been different. Losing Kosovo led to the revolution in Serbia, which overthrew President Slobodan Milosevic the following year. In came a genuine liberal, Zoran Djindjic, who had called the EU “Serbia’s fresh air”.
He announced complete co-operation with the International Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and swore to root out organised crime from government and big business. This ensured retaliation. In March 2003, Mr Djindjic was shot and killed by a sniper in Belgrade. A bullet hit him in the back, went through his heart, exited his abdomen, and hit a bodyguard. He was 51 and left behind a wife, two young children, and a divided nation.
The outside world barely noticed. There was already a war in Afghanistan, and it was just eight days before the invasion of Iraq began. The news channels mentioned Mr Djindjic’s death, and moved on. Meanwhile, in Serbia, corruption came back strongly, democratisation slowed, and the gangs running guns, drugs, and illegal immigration into western Europe flourished.
Today, a former ultra-nationalist, Aleksandar Vucic, is president of Serbia. Mr Vucic seeks a peaceful solution to the issues between Belgrade and Pristina, even if his past gives some hope to the hardliners who still want to “freeze” the Kosovo question in the hope that eventually the EU will fall apart, Nato will disband, and Russia will ride to the nation’s rescue and help rebuild a shattered dream of “Greater Serbia”.
That is unlikely and President Vucic is not pushing this agenda, but those who dream of that scenario are still players in the game. That includes President Putin. In January, he showed up in Serbia for his third visit in eight years to shore up both countries’ non-recognition of an independent Kosovo.
The situation needs a solution. One proposal to draw a line under the past involves a land swap in which Kosovo gives up territory in its north, which has a Serb-majority population, and Serbia gives land with a Kosovan majority.
This sounds attractive, but is problematic, as any land swap would attract the envious attention of others in the region. The Serbs in Bosnia might step up efforts to integrate their territory, known as Republika Srpska, into Serbia proper. Then the Albanians of Macedonia, kindred spirits of the Kosovans, could reignite their 2001 military effort to create a separate state. This, in turn, means that both Kosovan and Macedonian Albanians might wish to merge into a “Greater Albania”.
These are, indeed “mights”, but given the region’s history over the past 120 years, they are plausible. It follows that if the above scenarios came to pass, what was left of Macedonia would fall prey to division as Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria scrambled to protect their interests.
The outside world remains busy elsewhere, but, after the drawdown from Afghanistan, the retreat from Iraq, and a partial recovery from the financial crash, there is enough diplomatic bandwidth for the Balkans to come back onto the radar. And a glance at the screen shows how much work remains to be done.
The Referendum in Macedonia is planned to be held on 30 September 2018. The question included in the referendum is as follows: Do you support EU and NATO membership by accepting the deal between Macedonia and Greece?". It is related to the 27-year long dispute between Macedonia and Greece over the former name and follows an agreement with Greece on the issue which has prevented the accession of Macedonia to the European Union and NATO.
According to Telma’s survey, the majority of respondents (41.5%) would accept the agreement, whereas 35.1% would vote against.
When asked about the attendance in the referendum, 66.4% of respondents declare that they are going to vote, 19.8% want to boycott the referendum, and 12.4% of the respondents cannot determine.
The ethnical analysis of responses shows that the Albanian majority would like to vote for the agreement (88%), whereas among the Macedonians such support is less popular (27.4%). Most of Macedonians would like to vote against the change of the name (45.2%), among Albanians only 2.2%
Young and educated people are the vast majority of respondents that are in favour of the agreement (48.2%). 73% of respondents were informed about the agreement from the media. For 48.3% of respondents, the referendum question is clear, but for 44.8% it is not understandable.
The survey was conducted by telephone. 1,026 respondents were tested from 24th of July to 1st of August.
Sources: Telma, Anketa, SonjaNikolovska, availableat:https://telma.com.mk/anketa-41-5-ke-glasaat-za-35-1-protiv/ (accessed: 7.08.2018)
Zuzanna Halina Sielska
Canada will become the first country in the world to federally legalize Marijuana. Over many decades of debate, taboo, and laws that prevent people from smoking pot, Canada its changing that. Will this be the country that can lead other countries to that direction? Its hard to say. Here in the Balkans many countries have laws against it. Lets just take a look at some of the countries and laws in the Balkans:
Why should other countries join? More money for the government. Canada is a G7 country, that is one of the best countries to live in the world, its not considered a corrupt country, and I would say a majority of countries in the balkans like Slovenia and Croatia could see benefits for there government. Taxes that come in, from the selling of marijuana is huge. Look at the United States, its already over a billion dollar industry. That could see alot of positives:
- Better infustructure
- More spending for security and military
- Money spent on education
So should we see mairjuana legal in the balkans? Will let you decide as a tax payer, but we shall see.
On Wednesday (18.07.2018), the Prime Minister of Macedonia revealed referendum questions regarding the name of Macedonia.
After a meeting with main political parties, Zoran Zaev enunciated that the referendum question would be: "Are you in favour of membership in the European Union and NATO by accepting the deal between the Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Greece?". Zaev said the referendum will be “consultative,” but also added that “the people’s say will be final for all political parties.”
17th of June Greek and Macedonian foreign ministers signed the agreement at the banks of the Prespa Lake District in northern Greece, during a ceremony attended by Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev of Macedonia. The ceremony formalized agreement which was the culmination of a 27-year dispute between the two countries about the name of Macedonia and it is a chance to open the path of Macedonia to the NATO structures. Athens decided to recognize Macedonia as the "Republic of Northern Macedonia".
In June the agreement was voted in favour in parliament but President of Macedonia Ǵorge Ivanov refused to sign the ratified agreement saying it violates the constitution. On 5th of July Macedonia’s parliament endorsed a landmark agreement with Greece again in order to change the ex-Yugoslav republic’s name. At least 69 lawmakers out of the 70 who were present in the 120-member parliament voted in favour and the document was adopted.
Zoran Zaev will have to convince the Macedonian society to change the name. But the public opinion is significantly divided. Some are convinced that the agreement with Greece is the only way for Macedonia to develop. Others refer to the difficult history of their state, which won its independence and identity.
Prime Minister of Greece will also has to convince the public opinion to the agreement with Macedonia. The society is opposed to negotiations and does not want “Macedonia” to be included in the name they argued the term "Macedonia" implied territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name (birthplace of the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great) and usurped ancient Greek history.
The rate is high because last week NATO leaders formally invited Macedonia to start membership talks but with the condition that membership will not be completed until the name deal is fully implemented.
Read more about Macedonia: http://www.journals.us.edu.pl/index.php/PP/article/view/6963/5231
As our website is run by three people (on the blog and on the Twitter), we often have different views and opinions. Primarily, one of the matter of disagreement is the issue of independent Kosovo. On February 7, 2018, on our blog appeared an entry about Kosovo – Serbia can’t accept Kosovo being a country. I have been gathering for a long time to write polemic to this post, especially to improve that this problem is not black or white but also has got other shades.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. It is also true that Kosovo has got 117 diplomatic recognisions included 111 Unated Nations members states. However, a big oversight is the statement that the only country that did not recognize (Kosovo) is Serbia. Nonetheless, the fact is that more than 80 diplomatic states do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Including Spain, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Brazil, Russia, Israel, Georgia, Slovakia and others (picture 1).
At the very begging of the article is asked a question - do they think that Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, and all other countries from former Yugoslavia are not countries, either but Serbia's? Croatia is country where live Croatians, Slovenia is country where live Slovenians (The topic of Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to be left for the next article), but what about Kosovo?
At the turn of the 6th and 7th centuries, the Slavic population began flowing into the Balkan Peninsula, also on the lands of today's Kosovo. The history of Kosovo lands has not been easy from the beginning. These lands belonged to the former Bulgarian Empire, later to Byzantium, and in 1216 became part of the Serbian state. It was then that the largest number of Serbian monasteries and churches were built, which the Serbs refer to when talking about their legacy. The first census was conducted in the 12th century, so we know that territory was inhabited mostly by Serbs and Bulgarians. After Ottomans Empire conquer Balkan Penisula and in the 17th century, many Serbs were expelled from Kosovo, and the Albanians began to flow into these lands. In the following years, through a high birth rate, there were more and more Albanians in Kosovo.
1899 – Albanians 47,88%; Serbs 43,7%
1948 – Albanians 68,46%; Serbs 23,62%
1991 – Albanians 81,6%; Serbs 9,9%
After the war, the Serbian population decreased significantly. Many Serbs were killed or have been banished from their homes. All of this was the responsibility of the UCK recognized as a terrorist organization. I will not present all the facts from the Kosovo war but I encourage you to watch a movie that presents some facts which the world forgets and are not easy or black or white: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1dtOAGD0pk.
As we can see, the population of Kosovo has changed significantly over the years, leading to the situation that in these lands are the vast majority of Albanians. Therefore, it is not true that in Kosovo is 50/50 Split of Muslims and Orthodox, but based on Pew Research Cente there is 87% of Islam and 9,9% of Orthodox. That is why I will not say that Serbia should re-joint its land. For now is impossible. The demographic structure of the area has diametrical changed and the rest of the international community would not allow it.
We can observe now the same situation in Macedonia. Other Slavic country which has big problems with Albanian minority which claim rights, leading to troubled conflicts like in Tetovo in 2001 (I am writing about it in my article which will be published soon). Many case researchers invoke the concept of Great Albania as a threat. The concept of lands that in future will create Great Albania based on regions like Kosovo and the Preševo Valley of Serbia, territories in southern Montenegro, northwestern Greece and western part of Republic of Macedonia.
The case of Kosovo is other than Croatian or Slovenian example, it is incomparable. We all have to ask ourselfs whether the state is a historical or cultural heritage, or, for example, the number of its population, not always indigenous. These questions are particularly important in these times when more and more immigrants or refugees are coming to Europe. In some areas, they create enclaves, sometimes being in the majority (Belgium). Whose countries will be in the future? I will not judge it. I do not even want to. My world has many shades and nothing is simple.