CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN THE WESTERN BALKANS AND THE ROLE OF THE WEST
Serbian nationalism, historically aligned with Russia, instigated four wars in the 1990s against Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and NATO. Although Slobodan Milošević was ousted in 2000, the nationalist elite responsible for the wars has never been removed from power. Post-2000, a coalition between the nationalist elite, the Serbian Orthodox Church, and Russia gave rise to the “Serb World,” aligning with the security and foreign policy of the “Russian World” in the Western Balkans. Nationalists in Serbia acknowledge neighboring countries’ territorial integrity but deny their sovereignty, advocating that only nations possess sovereignty, making borders relative. President Aleksandar Vučić considers himself the leader of all Serbs, adopting a doctrine of limited sovereignty. This nationalism asserts the right to intervene where Serbs reside under the pretext of protecting Serbian rights, mirroring the Russian narrative in the Ukraine conflict, and fostering a centralized, corrupt regime with anti-European sentiments. This regime cannot create strong and independent institutions; only para-states influenced by Russia.
Western efforts to redirect Serbia’s allegiance from Russia to the West are misguided. The “Serbian World” aims to prevent neighboring countries, particularly those with Serb populations, from joining the EU, advocating for Serbs to be unified in one place and not divided between the EU and Serbia. Belgrade prevented a pro-EU government from being formed in Montenegro and supported pro-Russian factions entering the government, seeks to destabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina through Russian and Serbian proxies in Republika Srpska, and provokes ethnic conflict in Kosovo.
Democratization and decentralization of Serbia: Centralization and autocracy are powerful tools of aggressive Serbian nationalism. Until Serbia undergoes democratization, freedom and democracy for its citizens, and peace for neighboring states, will remain elusive.
Baltic model of EU integration process: This model involves strong partnerships between Western Balkan countries and stable EU democracies that have no specific political agendas in the region. During the 1990s, when the three Baltic states embarked on their path towards EU membership, three Nordic EU member states partnered with them. They trained their public officials, and helped harmonize laws, build institutions, and introduce necessary decision-making and implementation procedures. They also facilitated their communication with EU institutions. To this day, it is considered the most successful integration into the EU since 2004. Partners for Western Balkan aspirant states cannot be the largest EU members, nor the states too close to the region. The reason is the latent danger that the neighboring states have their political agendas in the region, leading to a distrust among the citizens of the Western Balkan countries in their bona fide intentions. In summary, the six EU member states, partners to the Western Balkan countries on their path to the EU, should all be stable democracies without specific political agendas in the region and have a strong EU orientation.
Bosnia and Herzegovina as a civil state: Propose a democratic constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina, initiating electoral law reforms based on universal voting rights rather than ethnicity.
Kosovo’s NATO integration: Facilitate Kosovo’s NATO membership and establish the Association of Serb Municipalities without executive powers.
Montenegro’s EU membership: Liberate Montenegro from Russian and Serbian influence through its accelerated accession to the EU.
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