Escalation of conflicts in SE Europe

by Georgios Kapopoulos

(“Kathimerini”, June 21, 2001)

For the parties involved in the conflict between Slavo-Macedonians and Albanians in the FYROM it is now becoming hard even to keep up the pretence of good faith. Yesterday the negotiations collapsed between the parties forming the government of national unity, at the same time that the council of permanent representatives at NATO headquarters were deciding to dispatch a force of 30,000 men to collect the weapons of those members of the UCK who choose to surrender within the next thirty days.

The conclusions are made graphically clear by the course of events: the two opposing sides in the FYROM are not ready to reach a constructive settlement, while NATO is not ready for a genuine and stabilizing intervention on the scale required by the situation. The Slavo-Macedonian side is afraid that any constitutional reforms will simply whet the appetite of the Albanian nationalists, while the Albanian side looks to an escalation of the conflict to bring under the control of its fighters a geographically compact area which will allow it to negotiate from a position of strength.

At the same time Hungary—a NATO member since 12-3-99 and a fervent supporter of the bombing of Yugoslavia—is raising its own irredentist challenge, conceding privileged rights to citizens of Hungarian descent living in Romania, Slovakia and Yugoslavia. Just two years after the de facto secession of Kosovo the Pandora’s Box of minority-ethnic irredentism has opened all across south-eastern Europe. If NATO was prepared to carry out a 78-day bombing campaign against a sovereign country in order to alter the status quo established in the Balkans by the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913, and if now it is extremely reluctant to intervene in defense of the integrity of the FYROM, the future of that stability introduced by the Treaties of Neuilly (1919) and Trianon (1920) is not something in which we can feel much confidence.

The concessions granted to the Albanians of Kosovo and now claimed so belligerently—and with a degree of understanding being shown by the international community—by their fellow ethnic Albanians in the FYROM, is inspiring all the other manifestations of minority irredentism in the region.

If Hungary, a NATO member today and EU member of tomorrow, can formulate in politically correct terminology a challenge to the Trianon settlement, then should we not expect the same in Greece’s neighbour, Bulgaria, where the challenge to the Neuilly treaty was made long before the revival of the royalist movement, when Zelev declared that his country is bordered on all sides by unredeemed brothers. In a context like this it is unreasonable to expect that Ahmet Dogan and his supporters will remain politically correct in European and Atlantic terms.

Two years after the end of the bombing, south-eastern Europe seems to be heading towards a widespread destabilization, and there is no sign on the international horizon of any stabilizing dynamic to counter this process.

 

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