An unsigned document appeared in Brussels, in the office of Charles Michel, president of the European Council, which seeks to redraw the fraught borders of the Balkans region, has whipped up a political storm in the Eastern European region and been widely discussed in Brussels.
The paper, which did not come through official diplomatic channels, is titled “Western Balkans – a Way Forward”. It has been talked about for some time, but only when the Slovenian website Necenzurirano.si published the text in mid-April did the real upheaval begin. Michel’s office has mostly remained silent over press inquiries about the paper but has not denied receiving.
The document, the authorship of which no one claims, deals with the situation in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the paper, it is a nation created on the basis of the Dayton Accords of 1995, which have reflected and preserved the then post-war era.
The agreement did not deal with matters of organization and functioning of the country in peacetime. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a politically, ethnically, and religiously very diverse country, and its institutions are corrupt and do not work. The current state of affairs does not suit many except for a handful of politicians who accumulate power and assets in this environment.
Turkey takes advantage of this and strengthens its political and religious influence, including radical Islamism, in the country. The situation is a hindrance to the further European integration and the enlargement of the European Union, states the two-page paper.
The mysterious document offers a solution in the form of redrawing the borders in the area of the former Yugoslavia.
The part of Bosnia and Herzegovina inhabited mainly by Croats would go to Croatia, the Serb-populated and administered part would become part of Serbia and Kosovo, together with about a third of North Macedonia, dominated by ethnic Albanians, would be annexed to Albania. What remains of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a territory inhabited mainly by Muslims of Bosnian nationality.
It is clear from the text and the attached map that Croatia and Albania, in particular, would benefit territorially and strategically from redrawing the borders. It could be chalked up to clumsiness of the graphic’s author, but the Greek island of Corfu is also shown on the map as part of Albania.
The document, which it turns out everyone has been familiar with since February, comes across as a work of a Croatian nationalist. Serbs are a little less under suspicion as they would benefit territorially, but that would hardly compensate for the political defeat and the loss of handing over Kosovo to Albania.
How did Slovenia get involved in this as it allegedly took care of distributing the document?
Its politicians are also reportedly curious how interested parties and big European players will deal with the issue and likely relates back to Slovenia holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of the year. The inclusion of the Balkans could also be one of the topics addressed by Slovenia’s presidency.
Sarajevo, North Macedonia’s Skopje, and Podgorica, Montenegro, which would not be affected by the proposed changes, sharply rejected the idea while Zagreb and Belgrade are maintaining a cautious distance.
There is no doubt that anyone who embarks on the realization of the idea of the authors of the anonymous document would open Pandora’s box with the demons of nationalism, repressed injustices, and the desire for revenge. It almost seems as if the author of the paper on the new order in the Western Balkans could be someone strongly opposed to the possibility of EU enlargement in this direction.
Title image: The map of the Balkans according to the proposal (News1.mk)