Editorial
Volatile Balkans

(“Kathimerini”, 13 March, 2003)

The assassination of Serbia’s Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was a dramatic reminder of the fact that the Balkans remain a highly volatile region. Despite the apparent calm none of the essential problems have been resolved in any of the former Yugoslav republics. The atrocious massacres have ceased — and this alone is a great success — but the entire area is dotted with hot spots and the threat of renewed conflict remains, as demonstrated by the sporadic murders of civilians.

Serbia, the protagonist in the Balkan drama, is still without a head and mired in deep political crisis. After three failed attempts, it is still without a president, and now with Djindjic’s assassination, it is also without a prime minister. Montenegro, Serbia’s sister republic with which it makes up the nicknamed “Solania” (from the name of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana who imposed the formation of the new union of Serbia and Montenegro), is also without a president following two unsuccessful elections.

Serbia’s political crisis has radicalized Albanian parties in Kosovo which last month demanded independence for the province in spite of international agreements.

What is worse, ethnic Albanian guerilla groups who have killed Serbs in southern Serbia and question Serbian sovereignty are further exacerbating the crisis.

The situation in Voivodina is also a cause for concern, as Serbs fear that Hungary’s aggressive pro-Americanism on Iraq is part of Budapest’s attempt to ensure US backing for the secessionist  aspirations of the Hungarian minority in the Serb province.

The artificial protectorate state of Bosnia is also mired in a deep existential crisis, as its foreign governor is busy abolishing the nationalist governments elected by the country’s various ethnic groups.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is also on the verge of ethnic strife. Assassinations of civilians and police officers are common and any serious crisis would most likely trigger Bulgarian and Albanian intervention.

There is a serious risk that we will witness a resurgence of violence in the Balkans and, what is more, within a more unfavorable international context. In light of the ongoing transatlantic brawl, nothing can guarantee that the USA and Europe will act jointly to put out a new bonfire on European territory.

Apart from Iraq, the Greek government must also keep one eye fixed on Balkan developments.

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