The Center for Advanced Studies in Sarajevo (CNS) and the Sami Fraseri Institute for Political Studies in Tirana organized a debate on “Challenges for Peace, Stability and Prosperity until 2030” on November 19 and 20, 2021 in Shkodra. The topic is very interesting and current, the debate was meaningful, and the two reputable institutions that organized the event showed that they understand the delicate moment in which the Balkans find itself. The participants in the debate were very good connoisseurs of the world political situation, relatively young, well educated with the knowledge acquired, among others, at the universities of Western countries. Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, each in its own way, are interesting and important countries in the region, which is why the meeting itself has a special significance.
Why am I saying this? We live in a time of acceleration of connections of the world and we in the Balkans are so close to each other, but we are not adequately connected. That is why this meeting, primarily of young and educated people, along with several seniors, is of historical significance. They see the world in the right way and accurately are detecting problems faced by the countries of our region that strive for Euro-Atlantic integration. Today, two forces collide in our area, one is retrograde and nationalist, while the other is progressive and globalist. On one side there is a Serbia which wants to be the hegemon in the Balkans and implement the idea of its own geographical expansion by occupying the territories of neighboring countries, while on the other side are endangered countries by that same Serbia. The question remains whether Europe and America will remain faithful to their principles of democracy and human rights, or will give in to the onslaught of nationalism and destruction. I want to believe that my friend, former President of Croatia Stjepan Mesic, was right when he said that the architecture of this area is finished. Of course, he meant on the holiness of the immutability of internationally recognized borders on which the modern world rests. If this principle is violated in the Balkans, and if Europe does not promote and defend its own proclaimed principles, then Europe itself has no future. Therefore, all pro-European political forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia must not agree to concessions under blackmail and threats from right-wing forces, whether they come from the region or the European Union.
Albania has orderly and friendly relations with all countries in the Balkans, so its state policy can significantly contribute to stability, peace and co-operation in the region. It is not burdened by the remnants of the difficult past that follow other countries that emerged from the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, and which have gone through mutual conflicts and severe suffering. Bosnia and Herzegovina had the hardest time in the process of disintegration of Yugoslavia, and even today it is attacked from the position of the same policy that thirty years ago set out to destroy its multicultural society through large-scale crimes and genocide committed against Bosniaks. People from Bosnia are the most relevant today to talk about it and to fight politically so that it never happens again. We all need to help them with that.
During the two-day discussion at the mentioned gathering in Shkodra, dominated assessment was that today’s security situation and the danger to the peace and stability are greater than ten years ago. This is because those old war policies from the 1990s are in power in Serbia again, which do not show that they left that policy behind nor that they turned to the future, reconciliation and prosperity. Hopes for another, democratic, to the future-oriented Serbia which will cooperation with neighbors quickly faded. In a slightly different form, adapted to the new circumstances, the idea of Serbia expanding territorially to the detriment of its neighbors is still alive. During the nineties Serbia did it on the platform of the Memorandum of SANU from 1986, and since 2010 on the platform of “SANU Memorandum 2” and through the idea of the “Serbian world”. As Serbia turned to the old policy, the old spirits revived in the Bosnian entity of RS. According to the same plan, Serbia is doing it permanently towards Kosovo, and now also towards Montenegro. The destructive politicians and nationalists benefited from the international circumstances that have changed significantly in the meantime, because the Western powers switched their priorities and focus. In the European Union itself, right-wing political parties have been revived in many countries, undermining the unity of the European Union itself. Russia is using this to expand its influence in the Balkans through Serbia, as its stronghold in the region. On that path, Russia does not care about the destructive actions of the regime from Belgrade in favor of achieving the goals of Greater Serbian nationalism. Despite the effects of Russian influence, the presence of the United States, the European Union and other Western European countries is the greatest guarantor for the preservation of peace and stability in the region. Also, the governments and civil society of the pro-European countries of the region must connect and engage to the maximum in preserving peace and stability. Mistakes from the past must not be repeated! All developments in the Balkans are reflected to the national and security interests of the United States and the European Union, as well as NATO as a whole. That is why the engagement of Western allies in our region is important in order to prevent the destructive actions of Russia and Serbia. After all, we are part of Europe, and we should take care that the Balkans is not Afghanistan!
Civil society organizations and associations such as the Sami Fraeri Institute in Tirana and the Center for Advanced Studies in Sarajevo need to be more active and cooperate in efforts for peace, stability and progress in our region. The efforts of democratic forces and civil society in Serbia, which are fighting for democratization and country’s new future direcred towards cooperation, friendship and reconciliation with neighboring countries and peoples, should also be supported. The break with Serbia’s current policy towards its neighbors is essential for peace, stability and cooperation in our region. The future must be built on acceptation of past mistakes, and particularly recognition of the genocide in Srebrenica committed by the Belgrade regime. The current celebration and glorification of war crimes in the long run harms the most very being of Serbia itself. Until a catharsis occurs in Serbia, other Balkan countries that see their future in NATO and the European Union need to co-operate and strengthen their own democratic and lobbying capacities.