The Balkans in 2014

23/04/2014

Mira Milosevich is a writer and professor at the Ortega y Gasset Research University Institute

 

The Balkans of 2014 are certainly not those of 1914. While Ukraine and Syria’s crises make us reflect on possible similarities between the current Europe and that of the outbreak of World War I, the Balkans are much more reminiscent of the wars in former Yugoslavia (1991-1999), which implied the country’s destruction and break-up and the subsequent appearance of seven new States. Of these, two are already members of the European Union (Slovenia and Croatia); two have signed the Association Agreement with the EU (Montenegro and Serbia), and three are stuck with their internal problems (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo). The creation of these new States put an end to the political aspirations of radical nationalists, but not those of ethnic nationalism. Croatia and Serbia are still embroiled in an international legal process after accusing each other of genocide; Slovenia and Croatia have not yet resolved their conflict over maritime borders. However, the most worrying cases are those of Bosnia and Kosovo, as their independence was the result of the international community’s determination to end the war, but their state institutions are politically and economically inefficient and have not managed to improve the coexistence of their citizens.

In 1995, the Dayton Agreements institutionalised the first Bosnian State between the Srpska Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation (created in 1994 in Washington under direct pressure of the USA) and thus settled the armed conflict between Serbs, Croats and Muslims, which had horrified Europe between 1992 and 1995. Serbs who live in the Srpska Republic, the most developed region in Bosnia, have a smooth relationship with Belgrade. While Croats who live in Bosnia feel blocked by the Muslim community and increasingly removed from Zagreb. Recent protests of citizens against the corruption of the Bosnian Government were one of the few joint activities of both communities. Even if there is not a war, Bosnia continues to be a country that has been torn to pieces, where rivalry among ethnic communities has not disappeared. Nationalism continues to be the main political vehicle.

Kosovo’s example is even more dramatic: fifteen years after the NATO bombing of Serbia (1999), which ended the conflict between Serbs and Albanians, and six years after the recognition of Kosovo (2008) as an independent State by the USA and most EU countries, EULEX (the EU’s mission in Kosovo) continues to be essential in order to maintain a fragile peace. Serbs and Albanians have made some progress in negotiations, which they define as “techniques” for improving citizens’ quality of life, but Serbia does not intend to recognise Kosovo’s independence, despite the fact that its entry to the EU is subject to that (unfair) condition. Moreover, the EU and USA’s demand that a court must prosecute war crimes against Serbs in Kosovo has been defined by Kosovo’s current Government as an offence.

Clearly, the EU trusts its power to transform the political and historical realities in the Balkans. But it is also clear that, until now, transformation has only been possible where there were not any ethnic conflicts. It is time to reconsider a policy that implies a huge expense for Europeans and the practical results of which are extremely poor.