The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyzes developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. IFIMES has analyzed the current political situation in the Balkans with respect to the current threats that jeopardize progress of countries in the region. We bring the most important and interesting parts of the extensive analysis titled “2021 Balkans: Who jeopardizes Balkans?”
It will be recorded inthe history of international relations that all countries of the Balkans peninsula, starting from Slovenia to Bulgaria had or have officially applied for membership in the EU and NATO, except for Serbia which has declared military neutrality, but is still a candidate for membership in the EU. Throughout the history, by means of public or secret agreements, international conferences, particularly in the case of the ending the two world wars, as well as the local wars in the Balkans and broader region, the major powers have always brokered agreements on their respective spheres of influences, which as a rule, did not respect the wills of those affected the most by such agreements- the states and peoples of the Balkans.
For the first time in history the major Western powers have concocted a new model of distribution of spheres of interest, which, inter alia, includes the procedures for accession to the two strongest and most influential transnational integrations- EU and NATO. Namely, they established a kind of neocolonial approach of dependence of conditionally underdeveloped countries, particularly the Balkans states. There is the well-known example of the Republic of Turkey, a country that has been unsuccessfully awaiting integration into the EU for decades already, despite the fact that it is simultaneously one of the most important members of NATO, because of the role it has in the protection of geopolitical interests of the West, and has also been a kind of an “Eastern shield” for the “Old Lady”- the EU.
The Western Balkans is nowadays put “on hold”. Specifically, the Western Balkans- the region in which World War I started and the region in which 25 years ago a regional war that had threatened global security was ended- is nowadays abandoned and forgotten by the EU and represents a threat and a potential war zone.
It will also be recorded that the strongest states of the Western hemisphere that are EU and NATO members had initiated the processes of integration of the Balkan states in these strongest organizations and then did nothing for decades to coopt the aspirant Western Balkan countries. The existing situation in the Western Balkans can be best described with a quote from Franklin Roosevelt, US President “In /international/ politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
While the most drastic example is the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the case of North Macedonia is also very important. The Republic of Croatia, a Balkan state, which in the meantime was co-opted into the EU and NATO is currently the major impediment and a factor threatening the peace in the West Balkans, because it supports the separatist wartime policy of the Croats in BiH through Dragan Čović (HDZBiH) and the separatist policy of Milorad Dodik (SNSD), a BiH Serb who wants to present himself as an important Russian actor in the Balkans. Croatia blocks BiH also through a range of intelligence hoaxes by which it supports the Russian policy in the EU and aligns its foreign policy with Russia.
During the recent visit by the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov to Croatia, the Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman (HDZ) signed the protocol on intensive consultations between the two ministries for the next two years. Another testimony of the coordination of policies was the statement by the two ministers that Russia and Croatia share the same stance with respect to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hence, Croatia, which is an EU and NATO member, shares the same stance as Russia with respect to BiH. Zoran Milanović (SDP), the new President of the Republic of Croatia, has taken the role of the nationalist Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) in the attacks on BiH. Milanović is being connected with the Albanian mafia, which played a role in his victory at the presidential election. For more information see: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9944 (Analysis ● 2020 Bosnia and Herzegovina – Croatia: Relations in the Shadow of Recent History)
Bulgaria, a Balkans state which had also been co-opted into the EU and NATO, nowadays blocks the integration of the Republic of North Macedonia into the EU and in such a way opens a “Pandora's box” on the Balkans. Bulgaria, which was integrated into the EU thanks to the interventions and pressure by the US, now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the states that directly jeopardize the EU - Hungary, Poland and Croatia. The EU does not wish to intervene and discipline Bulgaria, which is one of the most corrupted countries in the world for years already, as indicated in the reports of the EU, World Justice Project (WJP), Transparency International, OECD, UN, etc. The key question to be asked is at whose order and in whose interest does Bulgaria block North Macedonia. Is Bulgaria an exponent of the Russian policy of destabilization of the region and the EU, as the number one man in Bulgaria is Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (GERB), former bodyguard of the communist dictator Todor Zhivkov and a man with a Russian (soviet) mindset. In addition to the marked Bulgarian nationalism, Zhivkov's policy was also reflected in negation of the Macedonian minority and Macedonians in general, historic aspirations towards Macedonia, and forcible denationalization of the Turkish minority, whose members were forced to change their names into Bulgarian names. Such a policy has not been discontinued. Former Todor Zhivkov's bodyguard has blocked the process of enlargement of the EU – in whose name and in whose interest? Is this influenced by some EU members or is this a matter of Russian influence (“Trojan horse”) on Bulgaria through which it undermines the institutions of the EU and NATO, or is it a combination of the two. Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov (VMRO), who is of Macedonian descent and a former informant of the Bulgarian communist security service, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zakharieva (GERB) are the most vocal proponents of negation of Macedonians, their identity, the Macedonian statehood and language, which can be characterized as a new-age form of fascism. This opens the question about whether the wave of fascization has really grasped the EU, but also NATO. The European People's Party (EPP), of which the GERB is a member, is faced with major problems because of the fascization of its own ranks. However, it still does not have the political will and courage for a showdown with the proponents of such occurrences. (i.e. Fidesz, Law and Justice -PiS…). For more information see: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9924 (Analysis ● 2020 Bulgaria: Bulgarian “Certification” of Identity of Macedonians and Macedonian Language?)
Serbia was allowed to “get by” and develop its relations with the Russian Federation and China. The EU and NATO have continuously attributed to Serbia an expansionist and disruptive role in the Balkans. Particularly with respect to BiH and its connections with Russia, as well as China. The decade long dialogue/negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo mediated by the EU became a dead letter on paper– that is experienced a fiasco. The question to be asked is do the EU and NATO want Serbia in an alliance with the Russian Federation and China, or are the Russian Federation and China so powerful and strong that they can rope Serbia into their geopolitical and economic interests beyond and against the EU and NATO, or is Serbia so stubborn, powerful and strong that it will resist the EU and NATO and position itself on the side of the Russian Federation and China. The new American administration will soon give answers to these three questions related to Serbia, but also the Western Balkans. It will do so in direct dialogue with Germany and France, and subsequently with the Russian Federation as well.
Analysts believe that the crisis created by the planetary spread of the new Covid-19 virus has once again exposed the weaknesses of the EU and its institutions. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) obviously hit the mark when he called the EU “a fairy tale on paper.” This situation has not improved to this day, particularly because of the Bulgarian blockade of further enlargement of the EU and the absence of bigger solidarity in the Covid-19 pandemic. Serbia was the first in the region, and third in Europe, to commence with the vaccination of its population against Covid-19. For more information see: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9903 (Analysis - 2020 US-Serbia-Kosovo Agreement: New Era of Serbia-US Political and Economic Relations).
The most tragic is the example of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which should have been the first country of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) to become the EU and NATO member. However, there is no indication when Bosnia and Herzegovina could become an EU or NATO member. Separatist policies inside and outside BiH once again put BiH in the focus of international politics, primarily because of the indifferent and hypocritical policy of the EU.
In BiH, currently, two out of three pillars of the government, the executive and judicial, are falling apart. The aim is to remove Fadil Novalić, Prime Minister of the Federation of BiH, through a staged indictment because he is an impediment to Russian energy interests. Furthermore, some circles in BiH and abroad begrudge him for his cooperation and closer relations with the US.
The recent beginning of construction of the Southern interconnection of the BiH-Croatia gas pipeline in the Zagvozd (Croatia) – Posušje (BiH) – Novi Travnik direction is a part of the Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline (IAP), which will reduce and subsequently eliminate dependence on the Russian natural gas. Through the Russian actors in the BiH Office of the Prosecutor and the BiH Court, a staged indictment was issued against Novalić, despite the fact that he is one of the most successful prime ministers in the Western Balkans. However, in the end it will expose the Russian actors in the BiH judiciary. The corrupted BiH Office of the Prosecutor is “blackmailing” the President of the BiH Court Ranko Debevec, to confirm the staged indictments.
The IFIMES international institute has notified international officials that it had introduced monitoring over the work of the BiH judiciary, and particularly the BiH Office of the Prosecutor and the BiH Court, as well as that strong pressure is being put to the President of the BiH Court Ranko Debevec. The corrupted BiH Office of the Prosecutor and the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) have to undergo changes- not just of its top management. If the head of the BiH Court Debevec supports the staged indictments, and particularly the one against FBiH Prime Minister Novalić, will have to be removed. It is necessary to conduct a thorough reform of the entire judicial system in BiH. For more information see: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9942 (Analysis ● 2020 Bosnia and Herzegovina: There Will be No Rule of Law without Comprehensive Judicial Reform- - Fadil Novalić Case Illustrates the State of the BiH Judiciary).
Montenegro got a new Government and after 31 years the most corrupted and criminal system in the Western Balkans, which was headed by the current Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović (DPS), was toppled. The new Government supported the path of Montenegro towards the European Union and the obligations stemming from the country's membership in NATO. Milo Đukanović is trying to sabotage the new democratic changes in Montenegro and uses, for such purpose, the minority peoples in Montenegro as his political puppets. The latest proposal regarding the adoption of the resolution on Srebrenica in the Montenegrin Parliament, which was submitted by the “Đukanović’s” Bosniak Party (BS) was masterminded by Milo Đukanović, who wants to deepen the conflict between ethnic communities living in Montenegro. The question to be asked is why was the resolution on Srebrenica not adopted when Milo Đukanović's regime was in power, that is when Đukanović had absolute power in Montenegro.
The unfounded and entirely unsolicited expelling of the Serbian Ambassador to Montenegro Vladimir Božović is in the function of sabotaging the work of the new authorities, raising tensions and undermining peace and stability in the region. Namely, Đukanović policy survived for decades through production of tensions and conflicts in the region, after which Đukanović would regularly emerge as a “savior” and a part of the “solution.” Therefore, the case of Ambassador Božović will be a test for the new Government of Montenegro. Namely - will it continue to pursue this policy of raising of tensions and the policy of further complexing and complicating the relations with Serbia, which has been pursued so far – or will there finally be a change and discontinuity of Đukanović's policy. Specifically, will there be relaxation of relations and promotion of international cooperation starting with the withdrawal of the decision to expel Ambassador Božović from Montenegro. At the same time, Đukanović persistently continues with fabricated accusations against Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić(SNS), who is striving to secure peace and stability in the region under very difficult circumstances and does not fall for Đukanović's or similar provocations. Serbia is aware that throughout its history it has always progressed when it was leaning on the US. That is why the beginning of the work of the regional office of the International Development Financial Corporation (DFC) in Belgrade is a sign of strong support to the Washington Agreement and the „Mini Schengen” project, as well as development of Serbia.
Attacks by Milo Đukanović's regime on US diplomatic representatives in Montenegro are a testimony that the overthrown Milo Đukanović's regime has lost its compass and is ready to undertake all kinds of actions, including establishment of closer relations with Russia and China. Đukanović has never discontinued the cooperation with China, because China actually controls the public finances of Montenegro, as it funds the Bar – Boljare highway. The new Montenegrin Government has to open towards the region and support the activities and initiatives, such as the “Mini Schengen” project, so that the Western Balkans countries that had already applied for membership get integrated into the EU and NATO sooner rather than later. For more information see: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9956 (Analysis ● 2020 Montenegro: Đukanović's war with the US (West))
Kosovo is currently in the most difficult situation since the international intervention in 1999. Early parliamentary elections, which are to take place soon, should definitely lead to a break away from the wartime political and mafia structures, and open a new chapter in the development of Kosovo. The Decision of the Kosovo Constitutional Court that the election of the current Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and the Kosovo Government was illegally conducted, further contributed to the “cleanup” of the already complicated political situation.
The fact that the official stance of the European Commission on the visa liberation, for which Kosovo meets all the conditions, has still not been implemented is yet another indicator of the inertia of the EU and majority of its member countries when it comes to true interest in the Western Balkans countries. The early parliamentary elections on Kosovo are the final chance for Kosovo to permanently break away from wartime political-mafia structures so that the political options and individuals with no “mortgage of the past” come to power.
Parliamentary elections in Albania scheduled for 25 April 2021 should bring political changes and a showdown with mafia structures, which are most visible in the area of illegal production of cannabis and other narcotics and human trafficking. The elections should be a major breakthrough towards the democratization of the country, which its Prime Minister Edi Rama (PS) with his criminal-mafia activities is increasingly taking closer to Latin America, not the EU- despite the fact that membership in the EU is an official political goal of Albania.
Whenever Albanian political structures were closely linked or belonged to the mafia, the Albanian national interests were threatened the most. This is currently visible at Kosovo and in Albania. For more information see: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9947 (Analysis ● 2020 Albania: Edi Rama Takes Albania Closer to Latin America, Not EU).
The Russian Federation and China are preparing their applications to be given to other countries for membership in the Euro-Asian Union- similar to the applications for membership in the EU and NATO. The tailoring of the applications that Russia and China plan to use around the world, including in the Western Balkans, is underway. China is getting ready to officially offer to specific states a membership model in all “outside-of- China”-enterprises and offers benefits, particularly to those who join the “Silk Road.” Russia wants to officialize its covert activities, but also make “counteroffers” and in such a way officially compete with EU and NATO. The recent visit by the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov to BiH was the official beginning of such a policy in Europe. Specifically, the policy that will be offered to all those who do not wish to pursue membership in NATO, do not have an alternative option in the modern geopolitical developments, or are energy-wise connected with Russia.
Analysts believe that time is running out for the EU in the Western Balkans. The blockade of the enlargement process and the inertia with respect to the enlargement could boomerang on the official Brussels, because Russia, China, as well as Turkey, are strongly present in the Western Balkans and it would be realistic to expect that certain countries could change their geopolitical orientation.
The joint fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the new security-defense policy, the renewed strengthening of NATO, the joint policy towards the Middle East and Far East, Turkey and Iran, joint monetary-financial projects, the fight against all kinds of Chinese influences, new projects related to the joint migrant policy- are the most important topics between the EU and US.
The biggest challenges for the US and EU will be the joint approach to Russia, because of the EU's energy-dependency on Russia. The actions of Russia create headaches for the US and EU in almost all segments, because Russia uses the modern communication tools and platforms, as well as strong security-intelligence services, to destabilize the EU, by undermining democratic institutions and creating its /Russia’s/ new positions within the policies of specific EU member countries. The EU will have to first “clean up its own yard” and, with the assistance of the new US administration, try to get out of the evident political crisis that shakes the EU.
Only then will the time come to address the Balkans and the situation in the Balkans. The new US administration will advocate a joint approach to the Balkans and Western Balkans countries. First of all, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In consultation with Germany and France, but without major interference of the EU, the new US Administration will address the situations in BiH, Kosovo and North Macedonia. This will be done in agreement with Russia, particularly with respect to BiH and the final resolution of the issue of Serb secessionist policy in BiH, but also the Croat policy which, in cooperation with Russian, undermines the Washington Agreement and the Dayton peace agreement. While the issue of Kosovo will not be addressed without Russia, the new Administration will strongly buttress North Macedonia and remove the blockades imposed by Bulgaria through internal political changes in Bulgaria. The inevitable question is: Who jeopardizes the Balkans?
The new US administration will definitely do everything to get BiH out of the mire in which it has plunged primarily because of the inert and hypocritical policy of the EU and its internal forces (primarily the Visegrad group of countries), which obstruct any progress. The local polices in the Western Balkans look at the possible future activities of the new US administration in an illusionistic manner, while essentially this will be a very difficult and arduous process, which will also entail global interests of major powers. What will the US offer, in agreement with Russia, for prosperity of BiH and Western Balkans is yet to be seen, because all over the world Russia is maintaining so-called “frozen conflict” and definitely needs the support and assistance of the US in this respect.
Analysts warn of the role of Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, as well as of some other policies of EU and NATO countries, which are partly in the function of Russian interests. It is no surprise that one of the major intelligence posts of Russia is located in Sofia. In this context, it is important to remember that the Russian Federation is a very complex and heterogeneous creation and that Russia is faced with internal threats that can jeopardize its survival in the form as we now knFor more information see: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9933 (Analysis ● 2020 United States: Foreign Policy of the New US Administration for Europe, Middle East and Western Balkans).
Ljubljana/Washington/Brussels, 4 January 2021
 IFIMES – The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia,has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council ECOSOC/UN since 2018.