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Bildt: Further Balkanizing the Balkans is a recipe for disaster (The Washington Post)

By   /  10/08/2018  /  Comments Off on Bildt: Further Balkanizing the Balkans is a recipe for disaster (The Washington Post)

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Local online media cover an opinion piece that former Swedish Prime Minister Karl Bildt wrote for The Washington Post. Bild writes: “When it comes to the future of the Balkans, the discourse is slowing leaning toward proposing new divisions in the region — which is a recipe for geopolitical instability. Discreetly, Serb and Albanian political leaders have been exploring the possibility of sorting out their differences using territorial swaps. The idea of sorting out divisions through exchanging territories has been circulating in Belgrade for years, but lately, it seems to have acquired traction in leading Albanian circles, as well. The idea is certainly not new, but it was dangerous in the past and remains so in the present. Serbia’s strongman Slobodan Milosevic and Croatia’s leader Franjo Tudjman conspired in the early 1990s to divide up Bosnia between them. But the international reaction put a stop to those plans. But so far, the policy of both the European Union and the United States has been very clear: The borders that were there in old Yugoslavia should remain in place, and solutions should be sought within them. To further Balkanize the Balkans is to open the region up for further conflict and bloodshed. The Kosovo predicament remains one of the most difficult of the issues in the region. It wasn’t sorted out by the 1999 NATO intervention, nor by the 2008 recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by a large number of nations. As long as there isn’t a normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, the issue will limit the potential of both countries and the stability of the region. And that’s why the idea of new territorial divisions have emerged again. There could be different versions of such schemes. Kosovo could cede the area north of the river Ibar, inhabited almost exclusively by Serbs, and then gain diplomatic recognition, and possibly also gain some predominately Albanian inhabited localities in Southern Serbia. Serb President Aleksander Vucic has been thinking along some of these lines, and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama seems to have been receptive as well, as told to me in conversation. Lately, strong opposition to these ideas has emerged from the Serbian Orthodox Church and its leadership in Kosovo. They argue that a division of this sort will be a betrayal of the Serbs living in Kosovo south of the river Ibar and in all probability will lead to a complete ethnic cleansing of the area, with threats also to the historic Orthodox monuments in the area. Of the remaining Serbs in Kosovo, the majority lives south of the Ibar. These fears are undoubtedly well founded. A territorial swap would likely be followed by a population swap to create ethnically homogeneous territories. While some claim that this might pave the way for more stability, eventually including a greater union between and coming together of Albania and Kosovo, this is hardly likely”. Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/08/09/further-balkanizing-the-balkans-is-a-recipe-for-disaster/?utm_term=.a421552356d4

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