“The new international stage… The Balkans”

by Ambassador Vyron Theodoropoulos

(“Kathimerini”, March 11, 2001)


[…] As for the Balkans, it would be no bad thing if the spread of the problem from Kosovo to Prechevo and on to Tetovo were to give Washington an opportunity to invite Europe to deal more energetically with the problems in its own immediate region. Objectively, however, it does not seem as though the European Union is ready to take a leading role, even in its own backyard, not only because any European military force is still remote, but because the much-touted “Common Foreign Policy” is for the moment nothing more than a form of words and a feeble presence. And in any case, if some more active third party intervention were required, it would come first and foremost from NATO, which is already on the spot and is wholly dependent on the US. Of course, it is easy with hindsight to remind both the Americans and the Europeans that they bear a large measure of responsibility for the spread of the turmoil. Their single-mindedly anti-Serbian attitude might have been justified by the deeds of the Milosevic regime, but it entrenched in the Albanian element throughout the region the conviction that it would always and in everything have the full support of the West, and particularly of the Americans, which only increase their aggressiveness. Is this an example of fundamental ignorance of the history and mentality of the Balkan peoples? The whole business of the disintegration of the old Yugoslavia points to this conclusion. And of course, given the precedent of Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia, the possibility of Montenegrin secession and the imminent threat to the very existence of FYROM (whose importance, let it be noted, Greece is now becoming more aware of), all the talk about not changing national boundaries rings very strangely indeed. This then is one more area where the changeover in Washington does not match the new scenario developing in Prechevo or Tetovo. And the new presidency will not easily be able to implement its campaign promises of intervening only when “vital” American interests are threatened.

The new scenario in the Middle East is obviously also important to our country. But the new scenario on our northern borders touches our interests more directly, and creates a pressing need for us to move in three directions at once: one, on the local level, with whatever means we judge appropriate—but also feasible—to prevent or at least prepare for worse developments; two, on the level of the European Union, to strengthen and speed up all developments towards a more substantial and clearer common European foreign policy; and three, towards the Americans, because NATO’s intervention in Kosovo was orchestrated by the Americans, who cannot now shed their responsibilities, for the present situation in the Balkans is largely the result of that intervention. Consequently, the USA cannot in this case at least implement its current administration’s campaign promise to get involved only in regions where vital American interests are at stake.


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