The recent appearance of non-paper, sent by the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa to Brussels, caused a political earthquake in the Western Balkans. The document that Jansa sent to European Council President Charles Michel, reads that the main issue of the Western Balkan region is the “unresolved national issues of Serbs, Albanians and Croatians.”
The key issues remain unresolved years later, says the document, even after the post-conflict peace that was established in the region with the efforts of the EU and NATO, and after two countries – North Macedonia and Montenegro made progress on its EU path.
The document offers a few solutions as well as suggestions on how to implement them.
It first mentions the unification of Kosovo and Albania, which Serbia would support if larger parts of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated region Republic of Srpska are merged with Serbia. Also, it suggests the national issue of Croats would be solved if predominantly Croat cantons in Bosnia and Herzegovina are merged with Croatia or “by granting a special status” to the Croat part of Bosnia and Herzegovina (using South Tyrol as a model). (1)
Bosniaks will thus gain an independently functioning state and assume full responsibility for it. A referendum would be organised for the people to choose between EU and a non-EU (Turkey) future. For the time being, a convincing majority of Bosniaks supports the EU perspective but, in the case of the continuation of the chaos and an increasingly stronger influence of Turkey and radical Islam, the situation can drastically deteriorate over the next decade, reads the document. According to this paper, some steps to achieve these goals are already underway and they include checking the possibilities to implement the plan with international and regional decision-makers.
The European Commission denied being aware of such document, stressing that the European Union’s position on the Western Balkans and borders in the region is clear – “there is nothing to be changed on that.”
However, it has become obvious the European Union has mildly denied the existence of the document, while reactions to the non-paper are also mild. Whereas before, any mention of changing borders in Western Balkans was clearly and unequivocally rejected. Sanctions were even threatened if a political factor emphasized it.
Also, it is clear to anyone who understands the pyramid of power in the EU that Slovenia would never raise this issue on its own. Behind Slovenia on this issue are much stronger centers of power. The EU has long been discreetly saying that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a failed state and that it must do something about it. However, since there are other unresolved issues in the Western Balkans, in addition to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the goal is to resolve this in a package. And the Slovenian non-paper is just a test balloon.
Situation on the ground
The new proposal for the division of the Western Balkans must state certain facts. According to this division, the biggest winners would be Albanians, because they would get the unification of Kosovo with Albania. And in the long run, the Albanian territories in Macedonia would join that state. Without a doubt, after that, the Albanian factor would then become incomparably stronger than it is today. After the Albanians, the biggest winners would be the Croats, because they would get either the third entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina or the right to annex Croatian areas from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia. In both scenarios, Croats win.
The Bosniak position depends on the angle in which it is viewed. Even during the war, Bosniak war leader Alija Izetbegović correctly posed a dilemma before the Bosniak popualtion — either we will have 100 percent power in one third of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or we will have one third power in 100 percent of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. So, the whole story of the Bosniak unitarization of Bosnia and Herzegovina actually comes down to the struggle of Bosniak politics, now under the leadership of Alija’s son Bakir, for effective control over the territory. If Bosniak policy would accept the formation of a Bosniak nation-state on the territory that was under the control of the Bosniak Army during the war, then that would mean that it would spread to less than 30 percent of the territory of today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina. That is unacceptable for Bosniak politicians. They want much more and have been working on it for more than two decades. In this light, the current Bosniak threats of war and terror throughout Europe should also be taken into account.(2)
The Serbian position is the most interesting and most important. Commenting on the alleged non-paper about the change of borders in the Western Balkans, Vucic said that he has not seen it but only heard about some speculations.
“See, you say that Serbia will recognise the independence of Kosovo to get Republic of Srpska in return. That’s not going to happen. None of that is real nor good nor we need it, and this is all I can say about it. I refuse to speak about something that does not exist,” Vucic said.(3) Also, Serbs are not offered the entire Republic of Srpska, but most of it, which most likely means the eastern Republic of Srpska, the area from Herzegovina to the Brcko District. Which means that the current capital of Republika Srpska would remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The non-paper sent by the Slovenian Prime Minister is certainly not a Slovenian work. Undoubtedly, behind this non-paper are the centers of power from the European Union, which want to regulate the situation in the Balkans, because the Western Balkans are stagnating. Also, another important factor is that in addition to the EU and US, Russia and China are increasingly present in the Balkans, as well as Turkey. However, Russian and Chinese influence is growing stronger. Both Russia and China play a positive role in the Western Balkans, especially in Serbia, which is a central and most powerful state in the Western Balkans. Serbia has strengthened economically and militarily in recent years, and that process continues. It is certainly not in Serbia’s interest to change the border now, especially since Serbia would have to officially give up Kosovo and get only a larger part of the Republic of Srpska. So for Serbia, status quo would be the best option.
US President Joe Biden openly supported Bosniaks during the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s, so does his administration now. However, the fact that the Biden`s administration is against this plan does not mean that they are against the new borders. Exactly the opposite. The Biden administration will only modify the current non-paper, so that there is no division of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but a division of Kosovo, that is, an exchange of territories between Serbs and Albanians. All for the sake of achieving the geopolitical goal of the new US administration — to weaken the role of Russia and China in Serbia, as the central state of the Western Balkans.
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