Taming the Balkans: Redrawing Borders Along Ethnic Lines a Gateway to Bloodshed

Written by | Friday, April 30th, 2021

An explosive memo that advocates redrawing the borders of independent countries formed after Yugoslavia’s breakup and reducing Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to a third of its current size has sparked fears of renewed conflict in the region. The unsigned document, leaked to Slovenian media outlet Necenzurisano, which is claimed to have reached the highest EU circles, proposes Albania, Croatia, and Serbia being expanded to swallow up parts of neighbouring Bosnia, North Macedonia and Kosovo. The idea, widely criticised in the region, is to continue where the Yugoslav wars stopped and create monoethnic states – in direct contradiction with both EU and other international efforts to foster multiculturalism in the Western Balkans. It is alleged the ‘non-paper’, an EU term for an unofficial set of talking points shared confidentially between governments or institutions, originated from the office of Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša.
But moving borders in the Balkans would lead to an immediate “bloodbath”, North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski warns. Referring to the proposal to expand Serbia, Croatia and Albania to the detriment of Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Kosovo, Pendarovski cautions that “you cannot change the borders in the Balkans and not have the very same day in the afternoon a bloodbath, as simple as that.” He said he would never accept border changes in North Macedonia, arguing that the human cost these transformations entail is too heavy to bear. “The latest swap of the people and territories nearby the European continent happened in 1923 with the Lausanne agreement between [what was then] Turkey and Greece, and under the heavy auspices and monitoring of the great power of that period of the time,“ Pendarovski says, warning that next generations of those people who suffered the most in that period of the time „are still bearing heavy scars in their souls and they have never been to see their homes.“
Šefik Džaferovi?, one of Bosnia’s three presidents, says that the idea had been previously broached by Slovenia’s President Borut Pahor during a visit to Bosnia in March. “The Slovenian president said that in certain circles in the EU there are those who think it’s necessary to ‘finish the process of Yugoslavia’s dissolution’ before proceeding with the integration of the Western Balkans into the [European] Union,” Džaferovi? said. “I responded to that by stating that the process of Yugoslavia’s dissolution was in fact finished. He then asked us whether a peaceful dissolution of Bosnia was possible, and both Komši? [the Bosnian Croat member of the presidency] and I replied that those who are promoting such ideas are pushing this country and the region into war.” Džaferovi? also warned that the document was a clear attempt at destabilising the country.

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