The Balkans in the background at the Security Conference, the main topic of discussion

2024-02-19 10:15:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

The Balkans in the background at the Security Conference, the main topic of

Like every other year in February, Munich is the scene of many discussions about the current security situation in the world for three days in a row. The topics of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) this year were, as one might expect, the war in Ukraine and the war in the Middle East. These two crisis points thematically defined most of the discussions during the three-day conference at the luxury Bayerischer Hof hotel.

An opportunity for bilateral talks

But in addition to open public discussions, the MSC has been known since the Cold War for behind-the-scenes conversations between representatives of power who normally stayed away from each other in public. The large concentration of important participants and the labyrinths of the luxury hotel offer opportunities for more intimate conversations away from the prying eyes of media representatives.

This is also known to the participants of the Western Balkan countries, for whom the meeting in Munich is an essential meeting at the beginning of the political year. This year, the presidents of state and government of all the countries created after the breakup of Yugoslavia were again at the Bayerischer Hof, but they themselves, with the exception of Macedonian President Steve Pendarovski and his Montenegrin counterpart Jakov Milatovi?, did not participate in the public panels.

The leaders of the Western Balkan countries boasted numerous bilateral meetings: Serbian President Aleksandar Vu?i? met with British and Chinese Foreign Ministers David Cameron and Wang Yi, the US Senate delegation, as well as the unofficial host, the Prime Minister of the country of Bavaria, Markus Söder, whom he invited to visit Belgrade. As he told reporters in Munich, Vu?i? complained to everyone about the position of Serbs in Kosovo.

At the same time, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, was in the Bavarian metropolis and, according to a communique from his office, in a conversation with representatives of the US Senate, he accused official Belgrade of the recent problems that arose after the decision to the prohibition of the dinar. Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Policy Committee, said during a panel on the Balkans that she spoke with Vucic and Kurti and told them that "both sides need to move."

Sarajevo must make reforms

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic did not deal with Serbia and Kosovo, but with his favorite topic when he is on the international stage: Croatia's support for BiH on its way to the European Union. At the same time, in one of the panels, the member of the BiH presidency, Denis Beqirovi?, called on Brussels to open negotiations with BiH for full EU membership in March.

The representative of the German government for the Western Balkans, Manual Sarrazin, told DW on the sidelines of the conference that the opening of negotiations now depends on the coalition in Sarajevo. "The coalition has sent cautious signals of progress when it comes to reforms to enable us to follow this path positively, but we also need to see concrete results on the ground," Sarrazin said. In other words: you still have to do something if you want us to push you.” Sarrazin also linked the issue of European Union membership to the issue of stability and security, especially in light of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

EU membership as a security guarantee

By the way, during various discussions at the MSC, membership in NATO and the European Union was emphasized in several cases for the countries of the Western Balkans as a guarantee for peace and security. However, the road to the European Union is not easy, Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski complained, who repeatedly emphasized the absurd Bulgarian blockade of membership negotiations. But the panel also discussed the problems of Montenegro and Croatia, which have yet to resolve their border disputes, which could be an aggravating circumstance for Montenegro's EU membership aspirations.

Pendarovski sees the problem of blocking negotiations exclusively as a problem of the European Union. Even Sarrazin is aware of this. "If in the Western Balkans the European Union shows that it is unable to solve the problems, how will they take us seriously when it comes to much bigger global problems," Sarrazin told DW. He pointed out that Miroslav Lajcak, the special commissioner of the EU for negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, is also in Munich. But he said there is "nothing new to say at the moment" when it comes to progress in the rapprochement between Belgrade and Pristina.

Destructive Russian influence in the Balkans

Analysts still see Russia's influence in the Balkans as one of the biggest factors of instability. "The way Russia is acting, it is not only acting against Ukraine. Russia is a destabilizing factor everywhere in the world. Russia is trying to destabilize the Balkans as well... we don't need new meetings, but we need to immediately support Ukraine and give it what it needs," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a panel on the European Union's security role.

Frauke Seebass, analyst and specialist for the Western Balkans at the German Association for Foreign Policy (DGAP), told DW that the pro-Russian narrative in many parts of the Western Balkans, especially in those under Belgrade's influence, continues to be a major problem. safety. "Given the current geopolitical situation, the closeness to Russia and the increasingly open disregard for basic democratic values ??are also worrying. Public communication is increasingly anti-Western and Russia is portrayed as the most important ally. Prospects for joining with the EU has lost credibility, and therefore their effectiveness over the years, further limiting the influence of Western actors", says Seebass.

As for Montenegro, as President Milatovi? says, Russia's reputation is on a downward trajectory. "There is no sense in Russia's activities in Ukraine. My view is that Russia has lost its influence in Montenegro," Milatovic told a panel on the Balkans on Saturday night.

The risk of war is still small

Although it seems that the EU and the US are making efforts to prevent the opening of new hotspots in the Western Balkans that would threaten the focus of energy in Ukraine, experts like Seebass do not see a direct risk of war conflicts in the Balkans. "Given the rising tensions, comparisons are often made with the 1990s before the start of the wars in Yugoslavia. However, the security situation is different: three Western Balkan countries that are not members of the EU are now members of NATO , which makes war less likely," says Seebass./DW

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