Mysterious documents for new Balkan borders prepare to open Pandora’s box

Changing the borders would mean opening the Pandora’s box, “said Valentin Inzko. As international high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, his job is to maintain a lasting peace after the Dayton Peace Accords ended the 1995 conflict, after almost four years of fighting that took the lives of about 100,000 people.

The reason for his horror are unofficial documents offering some of the borders of the Balkans to be redrawn. They toured diplomatic circles before being published by the media in the Western Balkans.

As for Bosnia, its High Representative does not intend to speculate that the answer to the continuing dysfunction will be to redraw its national borders.

“If one wants to think about changing the borders, one must first visit all the military graves from France to Stalingrad,” he warned.

The documents do not have an author’s name. This is in line with their informal nature, but the content has caused outrage throughout the region.

Among their proposals were:

– “Peaceful dissolution” of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Serbia and Croatia annexing much of its territory.
– Unification of Kosovo and Albania
– The creation of an autonomous region with ethnic Serbs with a majority in northern Kosovo

The document looks like an ethno-nationalist wish list from the 1990s. And everyone still remembers what that led to at the time.

“People were worried. One of my employees was crying, she was really worried about these cards,” Valentin Inzko told the BBC. “We are mistaken if we think that frozen conflicts remain frozen forever. We see Nagorno-Karabakh and Palestine – frozen conflicts can break out at any time. This can happen in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well.”

The paper affair has become a diplomatic delusion.

Few people had anything to say in support of the ideas contained in the document – with the exception of top Bosnian ethnic Serb politician Milorad Dodik, who never misses a chance to push for the idea of ​​seceding from the country’s ethnic Serb-majority region. Under the Dayton Accords, the country was divided into a Bosnian Croat federation and a Bosnian Serb republic (Republika Srpska).

But these documents may not be the work of self-serving ultranationalists. Slovenia had to fight allegations that it had circulated the first document. And the media in Kosovo described the second publication as a “Franco-German” proposal.

James Kerr-Lindsey, an expert on the Balkans at the London School of Economics, says “thinking in the blue sky” is one way European leaders can tackle seemingly unsolvable problems in the region.

“We cannot deny that there are problems in the Western Balkans. There are two important issues that need to be resolved: the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo over Kosovo’s independence – and the deep-rooted political dysfunction that exists in Bosnia. This has worried politicians in recent years. 15. So such a method, prompted by an attempt to invent new approaches to it, is not particularly unusual, “he explains.

However, Slovenia tried to send the two documents in the trash to a meeting of regional leaders hosted earlier this month. The country has proposed a declaration confirming the inviolability of the current borders.

But Serbia refused. President Aleksandar Vucic has said his country recognizes “the boundaries set by the UN Charter”. In other words, he does not intend to sign a document that could be interpreted as recognizing Kosovo’s independence.

After meeting with Vucic in Slovenia, Kosovo President Vyosa Osmani told the BBC she was convinced Belgrade was behind the unofficial documents. “I had no doubt from the beginning – it is enough to just read the contents and see what these documents are trying to push through. The idea of ​​redrawing the borders as something that can achieve peace in the region, and in fact it is the opposite.”

“If there is one thing that the entire political spectrum in Kosovo agrees on, it is that redrawing the borders is completely unacceptable,” she added.

Naturally, Serbia denies any involvement, and James Kerr-Lindsey notes that there are “all sorts of conspiracy theories and confusion.”

But as his 12-year tenure as High Representative draws to a close, Valentin Inzko simply wants everyone to accept the borders as they are and focus on uniting in the European Union.

“A better idea would be to follow Tyrol’s example – one part is in Italy, the other in Austria. But this is a region with four freedoms and one currency,” he said.

But EU membership for the Western Balkans will remain inaccessible for years. And that means that many more such documents, whether dangerous or constructive, will be written.

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