Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Western Balkans Update

There has been a lot of news, not necessarily bad, but very probably bad. For the purpose of this post, we are going to define the "Western Balkans" as Albania, plus all of ex-Yugoslavian republics that are not in the EU (therefor excluding Croatia and Slovenia).

Here is a map of the area and the countries / almost countries we are discussing.

There are a lot of problems in the area, but we will concentrate on the two latests. And they are both threats to peace.

First the EU has suspended talks with Albania and North Macedonia* for ascension into the European Union. Talks were underway, and headway had been made, with both those two countries, as well as Montenegro. But unanimous consent is needed in the EU and France has vetoed anymore talks right now. There is a real reason and a semi-real reason. 

The semi-real reason is that some countries already admitted (Hungary and Poland) have regressed into anti-Western autocracies. France is worried that Albania and North Macedonia would do the same.

The real reason is that the French are tired of cheap workers coming from the east and adding these countries as EU members polls very badly in France.

But simply ignoring these countries will not bode well for Europe. Russian and China are making great inroads into the region, and the EU does not want their influence to grow. The EU just had to bail out a loan that Montenegro had with China. Serbia and Russia have a historic alliance that has resulted in a huge increase in soft power during Covid.

Second, and more threatening, is Serbia's plan for the future. Serbian ex-President and charged War Criminal, Slobodan Milosevic, attempted in the 1990s to take over the other countries to build a "Greater Serbia". This lead to the Serbian - Croatian War, the Bosnia "civil" War and the cultural attack in Kosovo against Albanians, Bosniaks, the Jewish and Roma populations.

After a decade or so of Serbian good behaviour, they have now rolled out a "Open Balkan" plan which would first open a pan-Serbian market and with it perhaps territorial changes. It is telling that the three nations that did not join, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo all have territory that the Serbians consider theirs and been attacked by Serbia physically and covertly.

The area is a powder keg that exploded to start the First World War, the Third World Movement and the multiple wars of the 1990s. Even though the idea of a European War seems remote, it happened only 25 years ago. We should be ready for another.


*North Macedonia tries hard to please. The first "reason" it wasn't allowed to talk to the EU was a Greek issue. They did not approve of the name Macedonia. They claimed Macedonia was a name of part of Greece, and could not be used by any other country. Alexander the Great was from Macedonia, and they didn't want to give that link up. 

The second "reason" was the Bulgaria thought too many ethnic Bulgarians in Macedonia (there for 100 years) were not being treated well. Not learning the Bulgarian Language or about the great history of Bulgaria. Really.

So for many years, until Greece and Macedonia agreed to the name "North Macedonia" it as internationally known as FYROM - used to signify the Former Yugoslavian Republic Of Macedonia.

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