Ethnic Minorities Of Serbia: A Growing Challenge In The Balkans – OpEd


Belgrade’s historical heritage has openly unveiled that Serbian ethnic minorities living in the neighboring countries are used by Serbian Government as a source of geopolitical influence against their host countries’ institutions.  Such a strategy, from time to time, has been implemented openly or covertly, but it has never been suspended.

The Serbian strategy of utilizing, morally negative and abuse with its Serbian minorities in the neighboring countries has been used to exacerbate political conflicts and inter-ethnic conflicts throughout former Yugoslavia.  The magnitude of conflicts in former Yugoslavia has been dictated from the size of Serbian minorities in each independent Balkan country.

In Slovenia, in 1990 there was only a very small Serbian community, even though shots were fired against the establishment of Slovenia’s independence, they were quickly crushed.  In Croatia the size of Serbian community was much larger; this was one of the main reasons for the Serbo-Croatian armed conflict to escalate into a bloody large scale interethnic war.  

The largest Serbian ethnic minority was in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It was precisely this community stretched over the Republika Srpska that transformed itself into a war machine.  Serbian crimes that culminated with the massacre of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not seen in Europe since World War Two.  

Kosovo was not excluded from Serbia’s ambitions to utilize, take advantage and abuse with its own Serbian ethnic minority while encouraging it to act against the Republic of Kosovo and its institutions.  The Serbian ethnic minority in Kosovo has established its own Serbian military, police and paramilitary troops.

The Serbian ethnic group in Kosovo committed massacres, crimes, genocide and an ethnic cleansing of large proportions against the Albanian population, an act of war that has served as the legitimate reason for the OSCE and NATO to intervene in Serbia and later on in Kosovo. 

Serbia maintains the same attitude in Kosovo today; Serbian representatives in Kosovo’s Parliament have recently stated that they will “freeze all of the activities within the government institutions of Kosovo,” because they have decided to act upon the orders of Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić.

Moreover, the top official of Belgrade for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, made a statement recently saying that “the Association of City Halls with a majority of Serbian population will use dinar in Kosovo,” they will not be using Euro like the rest of Kosovo; but instead, the Serbian local currency will be used by Serbian community.  It is clearly evident that Belgrade is using its Serbian minority group in Kosovo as a source of instability.

It was Mr. Djuric who entered illegally in mid December 2016 in Kosovo; he crossed the border while hiding inside an ambulance, therefore violating the bilateral agreement that was signed by both governments in Brussels.

Meanwhile for some time in northern Mitrovica (Kosovo) a concrete wall was erected, a structure that reminds us of the iconic Berlin Wall built by the Soviets at the beginning of 1960s.  The inspiration and support for this divisive wall is clearly coming from Belgrade.

The so called normalization process of agreements between Serbia and Kosovo initiated and mediated by the European Union is a series of weak agreements, respected only by Kosovo and is violated one-sidedly by Serbia.

In the mean time such a normalization process of Serbia and Kosovo is moving ahead just like a funeral procession; all of the official politics including the formal and informal orders from Belgrade has prompted the Serbian ethnic minority in northern Mitrovica towards embracing separation; encourages parallel Serbian ethnic institutions in Kosovo that will depend from Belgrade and cause a number of obstacles to every functional aspect of the government of Kosovo including its top leadership such as the presidency, parliament and the executive branch.

  1. Bosnia and Herzegovina is victimized once again

The war of Bosnia and Herzegovina ended twenty one years ago and consequently the signing of Dayton Peace Accord took place thereafter. Even though the war has ended, the country still stands far away from a peaceful setting.  The marks of ethnic divide between the Croat-Bosnian Federation on one side and the Republika Srpska on the other are not only noticeable but also vibrant.

The influence of Belgrade is feeding up an overwhelming separatist dream of Serbian community.  Such a separatist attitude is ruining and has been jeopardizing for more than two decades the integrity and institutional Unitarianism of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country.   Moreover such a Serbian blockade is hindering from taking place democratic standards, internal security, economic and social development, infrastructure standards and the overall integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Euro-Atlantic Institutions.

The height of these actions was reached by Republika Srpska in September, 2016, when its authorities organized a referendum that would either support a desired secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina or oppose such a political move.  In this referendum over 90 percent of its participants said ‘yes’ to the secession from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Even though European International Organizations have considered this referendum to be invalid and unacceptable; its political and inter-ethnic consequences continue to heavily impact the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  1. Serbia won’t withdraw its interests from Montenegro

In October 2016, Montenegro organized its general elections; political campaigns were characterized by many escalating tensions that were very similar to the anti-government protests held in Montenegro on September 2015. 

The ongoing political and electoral rivalry was not based on a mere political competition among parties, it was merely a geopolitical scenario, where the division of political groups was connected to their positions in favor of Montenegro’s integration to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or in favor of Montenegro’s leaning towards Russia and Eurasia Economic Union as well as its potential to be united with Serbia and with Belgrade’s regional strategy rather than strengthening its independent institutions. 

The political party that is in favor of Montenegro’s integration to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its Independence won the elections, even though it was a razor thin victory.  The leader of independence and incumbent Prime Minister, Milo Đukanović was re-elected once again as Montenegro’s Premier.  

However within a few hours after his victory the Russo – Serbian Criminal Forces, deeply rooted in the Serbian community of Montenegro, made an attempt for a Coup d’état and to kill Milo Đukanović.

Regardless of the overwhelming Serbian political statements and rhetoric, the turbulent events this past October in Montenegro are an undeniable testimony that Serbia has not abandoned its strategy and aspirations to embrace Montenegro within its territorial boundaries and hinder Podgorica from joining the NATO alliance and be part of the West. 

  1. Serbia is laughing at the European Union

The overall attitude of Serbian government actors and politics with its neighboring countries is far from the orientations, principles and the foreign policy set forth by European Union institutions.  Serbia’s interference in the internal politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, with the help of its ethnic minorities located in each one of these countries, is an irreversible proof that Serbia is mocking European Union Institutions.

Serbian political attitude with its neighbors is being criticized from the European Union.  Croatia’s consistent posture is legitimate and necessary for the benefit of E.U., Western Balkans and for a healthy Serbian democracy. Even in the last decade, Belgrade has shown that it will not abandon its old policies without a growing level of pressure and conditions being imposed by the West.

European Union is an organization with clear democratic principles when it comes to enlargement practices and good neighborhood relations.  Within the framework of enlargement policies promoted by E.U., the ethnic minorities are considered as bridges of friendship and cooperation among nations and countries.

However it appears that Serbia has not accurately reviewed the aforementioned good neighborly and ethnic minority policies promoted by the European Union.  It is crystal clear that Serbia’s relations with its neighboring countries are jeopardized through the manipulation of its minorities hosted by the very same countries in the Balkans; Belgrade is pursuing similar models that are currently encouraged by Russia rather than embrace Judeo-Christian statecraft and overall European Union values. 

Translated from Albanian Language: Peter M. Tase

*Prof. Dr. Lisen Bashkurti is the President of Albanian Diplomatic Academy in Albania. Prof. Dr. Bashkurti has been a Chancellor in a number of Universities in the Balkan Peninsula. He is also the Global Vice President of Sun Moon University in South Korea. As a distinguished scholar of international relations he has received many international awards including: A “Gold Medal” for his research on US-Albanian Partnership,” “Four Silver Medals” for his great contribution during his service as Albania’s Ambassador to Hungary (1992-1993); appointed as “Peace Ambassador” from the International Peace Foundation, United Nations (2009). He is the author of more than 18 books that cover a range of issues including: International Affairs, Negotiations and Conflict Resolution, International Diplomacy, Multilateral Diplomacy and Diplomatic History. He is an honorary professor in many prestigious European Universities and an honorary fellow to a number of prominent International Institutions.

Dr. Lisen Bashkurti

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lisen Bashkurti is the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences (FLSS), Epoka University, Tirana, Albania. In 1992-1993, Bashkurti was the ambassador of Albania to the Republic of Hungary.

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