A distillate of regional fears

Milivoje Mihajlović, rođen je 1958. godine u Prištini. O događajima na Kosovu izveštavao je za prištinsko „Jedinstvo“, Tanjug, Radio-televiziju Beograd, BBC, APTN, Agenciju Frans Press, CBS… Bio je glavni urednik Radio Prištine, osnivač Media centra, urednik informativnog programa YU-info televizije, direktor Radio Beograda.

By Milivoje Mihajlovic

Dear friend,

Although in the shadow of the war in Ukraine internationally, the „Kosovo case“ is often mentioned in the context of this European crisis. Starting from the fact that the Kremlin often uses Kosovo as an alibi for the latest war, all the way to the fact that we hear assurances from the West that „Kosovo was a special case.“

Since the beginning of the Ukrainian drama, many processes in the Balkans have started to accelerate. Kosovo received a signal to launch an initiative to join the Council of Europe, which raised the political temperature in Belgrade.

Many experts will not hesitate to „explain“ that the complicated „solution“ to the status of the Orthodox Church in North Macedonia is part of a package of pressures on the Serbian president to “choose a side.”

The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, and the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, traveled urgently to Berlin, where they confirmed their commitment to dialogue, following talks with the new German Chancellor Scholz.

However, no serious changes in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue will likely be made this summer. In Serbia, they are still „counting ballots“, and the government will be formed, probably, at the last moment – at the end of the summer.

For the President of Serbia, the formation of the government is not a big problem, considering that in the past decade he was the one who made the decisions on all important issues. Or at least his media team presented it as such to the public. What poses a bigger problem for him is the pressure from the West to impose sanctions on Russia.

The fear of how Russia would react to that is not only linked to the price and delivery of oil and gas. There is also a fear of a possible political upheaval because the pro-governmental media have been forcing a „pro-Russian orientation“ for years, and now their attempt to „switch“ sides seems unsightly.

Serbia has been placed in the position where answers are demanded from it before a question is even posed. The attitude towards Russia and Ukraine is another term for the attitude towards the East and the West or the attitude towards the future. And that relationship requires, above all, an honest attitude towards its people, its own national interests… And the most serious assessment of possible developments… Unfortunately, in this region, politics has always been based on personal interests and struggles to remain in power.

It is obvious that the war in Ukraine is not a „blitzkrieg“ and that this country will be a place of suffering for a long time, the place of application of outdated arsenal, destruction of cities, and testing of new military „achievements“. What plagues all troubled regions is fear that in the game of great powers someone may think of „expanding the front“ for tactical reasons, and try to spread out and weaken the opposing forces. The Balkans is one such region. We have “a knack” for conflicts, and even in this region of ours, fear is growing, understandably. There are many reasons for this.

This is an area of massive ethnically-based charge, unhealed war wounds, destroyed economies, criminalized institutions and governing structures, and systemic corruption. On the other hand, the banded regional mafia, quite strong even at the level of the world underground, is also an important factor when it comes to the stability of this area. And it is always ready to earn more, to have better „cooperation“ with some state institutions, but also with international centers of power. And the region is in a rather chaotic state.

In Croatia, we are seeing a reality show of the president and the prime minister, as they are proving who the „Russian spy“ is and who is the „Udbašenković“ (cf. UDBA- State Security Administration in former Yugoslavia). Large parts of state institutions were engaged in this political war, and the public (although initially entertained) was completely divided. That the country is in crisis and the conflict between the leaders of the country is a smokescreen to hide the failure of Croatian politics in BiH can be seen from “a mile away”.

It appears as if the crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina has never stopped. Even after the new division of authority, many in Montenegro feel cheated, so the situation cannot be called stable. Bulgarian aspirations are reawakening in Macedonia (throughout history, they have always appeared before conflicts). NATO bases are being built rapidly in Albania… The region is arming itself with dramatic speed and emptying with dramatic speed – young and capable people are leaving, and Russian and Ukrainian tycoons are arriving…

Belgrade and Pristina are in constant tension, primarily because of the Brussels dialogue, exchanging accusations about who signed what, who did not respect what was agreed… We went back a decade because even now the leaders, after returning from Brussels, claim that they „did not even shake hands“ …

It seems to me that at this moment, what is more important than the dialogue is for Belgrade and Pristina to establish a civilizational level of communication so that they can react in crisis situations, during possible incidents, and prevent tensions. The Balkans has always been the soft belly of Europe, and Kosovo is a distillate of the greatest regional fears.

And the atmosphere is such that everyone can provoke conflicts. At this moment, any „third party“ can cause serious problems without much effort.

As far as I can see, Brussels is aware of that danger. I don’t know if German Chancellor Scholz discussed this with Aleksandar Vucic and Albin Kurti, but I am fearful of the statements of Western politicians who claim that, in the context of the Ukrainian crisis, they will „arm the Western Balkans as well.“

One should not have high hopes for the efficiency of Brussels in preventing possible conflicts in this region. We have witnessed this „efficiency“ in Ukraine. The level of „madness“ that has gripped Europe is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that the EU is allocating IPA funds for the purchase of weapons.

A recipe must be found for preserving peace at the regional level, a mechanism for preventing incidents that could turn into something much more serious. In Kosovo, we have cases that raise the political temperature.

In Strpce, for example, a dozen members of the municipal leadership were arrested on criminal charges. No normal person can condemn the action against crime, but it is symptomatic that none of those arrested has been questioned for six months.

Serbs in this enclave are disturbed by the news that several store owners have been detained for 48 hours because they had two or three bottles of Coca-Cola in their warehouses, which were not inventoried. Local Serbs perceive this as ethnically motivated pressure.

Residents of the municipality of Zubin Potok are also distressed because the police, as part of the action against smuggling, dug canals on rural (asphalt) roads, so now the locals are traveling to the neighboring village through Novi Pazar?! It is not a smart way to fight against smuggling.

We have several recorded attacks on the police. With the dilemma – whether one attack was a bomb attack (as announced by the Kosovo police) or just firecrackers (as seen in the video), the others pose no dilemma – firearms were used, and the shooting in an ethnically-mixed environment is foreboding.

For starters, the police must shed light on these incidents, instead of the media „bottom-feeding“ on them.

And most importantly – it should not occur to political elites and local centers of power to try to „use“ the inflammatory situation to consolidate power and start playing with weapons.

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