A number of religious and ethnic conflicts are brewing again in the West Balkans, and the situation is starting to get dangerous. There are quite a few quarrels on that relatively small territory, some bigger, others smaller. Among them:
- The quarrel between Slovenia and Croatia about their sea border in the Gulf of Piran, as well as in the mountainous area of Sveta Gera.
- The quarrel between Croatia and Serbia about several islands inside the Danube river, including Sarengrad and Vukovar.
- The attempts of Republika Srpska, which is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to join Serbia.
- The demands of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (14% of the population) to join Croatia.
- The secessionist movement in North Kosovo by ethnic Serbs who want to join Serbia.
- The demands of the Albanians in South Serbia to join Kosovo.
- The attempts of the Serbs in Montenegro (about half the population) to bring the country back into a union with Serbia.
- The quarrel between Croatia and Montenegro about the Prevlaka peninsula in the Bay of Tivat, etc.
Right now, the relations between the former Yugoslav republics are the worst since the time of the last Balkan Wars in 1991/2001. More and more republics and national-ethnic formations on the Balkans are calling for major map redrawals and federalisation of the existing states. This has caused quite a few analogies to 1912 (the Balkan Wars) and 1914 (WW1), as well as the early 90s (the collapse of Yugoslavia).
It's evident that the US and EU policy that's been in place since the 90s, namely a "forceful pacification" of the warring sides and a creation of multiethnic states in the Balkans, is failing big time. Now many analysts are proposing an urgent redrawing of the borders in the region, before it's become too late. Some of these proposals include:
- Some regions in South Serbia are to join Albanian Kosovo, because there are 100 thousand Albanians living there.
- Parts of North Kosovo (50 thousand Serbs) are to join Serbia.
- Republika Srpska, part of Bosnia (1.5 million Serbs) to join Serbia.
- And the most dangerous conflict, Macedonia. The Albanian minority there has escalated the situation lately, now bringing the country to the brink of civil war.
This latter conflict has been escalating for the last 2-3 years with the active involvement of Albania. The official stats says 64% of the Macedonian population are Macedonians (a branch of South Slavs), and 25% Albanians. There are alternative versions of this, claiming 40% are already Albanians.
The tensions reached their peak after the December 2016 parliamentary elections, when president Gjorge Ivanov refused (and is still refusing) to give the right of the Socialists and the Albanian parties to form a ruling coalition, despite their slight majority. He's claiming the Socialists (who finished 2nd behind VMRO-DPMNE) had betrayed the country by siding with the Albanians and agreeing to the so called "Albanian platform". Its plan is to make Albanian a second official language in Macedonia, which would practically turn the country into a binational state. What's more the Albanian platform includes the federalisation, and de factor Albanisation of Macedonia, the end goal being the inclusion of some parts of it into a Greater Albania. Ivanov says this would be the end of Macedonia as a Slavic nation.
The West has been actively involved in Macedonian politics. The EU insists that the power should be transferred to the Socialists and the Albanians. The supreme EU representative on foreign relations, Federica Mogherini visited Albania to insist about that. Russia has sided with Macedonia, while the EU, US and NATO are openly supporting the Albanian nationalists - just as the two sides did back in WW2 times, when fascist Italy and Nazi Germany supported the Albanians against Serbia. Hitler even created an Albanian SS division called Skenderbeg; and now the US is maintaining a KFOR-managed base, the biggest US base on the Balkans, practically acting as a military umbrella to the Albanian separatists.
The internal Macedonian conflict is threatening to spill across borders and become a major Balkan conflict, since the Albanians in Macedonia are coordinating their actions with the radical nationalists in Albania who dream of a Greater Albania. The total number of Albanians in the Balkans is about 8 million: 3 in Albania, 1.5 in Kosovo and Serbia, and 0.5 in Macedonia.
The main idea of pan-Albanism is a Greater Albania, which is to include Albania-proper, North-West Macedonia, South Serbia, Kosovo, parts of Montenegro and parts of North Greece. The clashes between Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia would inevitably spill to Kosovo and South Serbia, where the conditions for an armed conflict have been in place for quite a while. The leader of the Serbian Albanians, Jonuz Musliu insists that several South Serbian municipalities (including Presevo) should join Kosovo. The Albanian radicals are threatening that if the Serbian authorities reject their demands, they'd start mass protests, which could easily grow into a guerrilla war, and then into a regional conflict with the involvement of countries from near and afar.
In a world that's becoming increasingly volatile, where the West is losing its abilities to control a number of regions and is marred by ideological discord more than ever, a number of players would inevitably start to fill the power vacuum - including in the Balkan region. The situation is starting to dangerously resemble that of 1914, when the Balkans were widely known as Europe's Powder keg.
Indeed, the increasing US isolationism and the weakened EU, there's ample ground for separatist movements in various countries to rear their head up again. In these conditions, the criminal Albanian clans and their so called Kosovo Liberation Army are moving into offensive positions along the whole perimeter where ethnic Albanians live in large numbers. And now they have the necessary experience: in 2001 Albanian militants started an armed rebellion against the Macedonian government, and their neutralisation proved immensely difficult. In 2015 in Kumanovo, not far from the border with Serbia (where a large Albanian community lives), a real battle broke out between the police and KLA militants. 8 police and 14 Albanian fighters died. Right now, various armed Albanian groups under KLA command are fully prepared to get into action as soon as the signal comes from their separatist headquarters. And there seems little that the so called Great Powers can do. Not only that, but some of them are even working towards inflaming this conflict further, for their own geopolitical gains.