People look at the Balkans and see a ‘morass’ of problems – all these ethno-national divisions, the people leaving the region by the thousands, the failure to make progress towards joining NATO and the EU, even the air pollution, said in an interview for "Avaz" a prominent professor at the American University "Johns Hopkins" and foreign policy analyst Edward P. Joseph.
-In fact, the problem and the solution actually is very clear and even manageable. We know this from the successes like the Ohrid Agreement, the Prespa Agreement, and the full reconciliation between Montenegro and Croatia. The common element in all of these agreements is that the parties all accept the Western order: that the Balkans are under a NATO and EU security and economic umbrella; that all countries in the region are equal, with equal access to NATO and EU membership; that the borders are fixed and final - said Joseph.
He added that the problem is the only country in the Balkans that does not accept the Western order, and that, in his opinion, is Serbia.
-Serbia is an EU candidate, but its candidacy is a charade. It is promoting the values, and at times the agendas, of Russia and China. It has an important model and ally in Hungary. And yet it is praised by Western officials, who turn a blind eye to the assault on democracy and Serbia’s subversion of a NATO ally like Montenegro. Why? Because Serbia holds leverage over Kosovo. And because of this leverage, Serbia cannot accept Kosovo’s independence, which is another formative component of the Western order in the region - stated Joseph.
He believes that this is the same problem that always arises, and it was evident in B&H during the war.
-The problem is divisions within the EU. Serbia has leverage only because five EU countries (four of which belong to NATO) do not recognize Kosovo. If Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyprus recognized Kosovo, the entire region would be transformed, including Bosnia. Why? Because then Serbia’s leverage would be gone, and without any pressure or coercion they would accept and recognize Kosovo as an independent state. In that way, Serbia would accept the Western order for the region, including that Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro are separate, sovereign state - said Joseph.
He pointed out that the acceptance of the Western order by Serbia is a condition for constitutional reform and a functioning B&H.
-It is that simple. All the other issues, including the Croat-Bosniak issues, become manageable once this happens, once all actors in the region accept the Western order. The Western order is democratic coexistence. This all becomes plausible in this scenario. Bosnia becomes a functional country. The whole ‘secession of Republika Srpska’ threat goes away. The alternative to democratic coexistence is changing borders and, in several cases, moving populations. This is the Russian way. It is the way of chaos and continued ethno-national tensions, not solutions – Joseph pointed out.
Speaking about Croatian non-paper, Joseph points out that it cannot be compared to the one from Slovenia.
- The Croatian non-paper is largely benign, and even constructive. Overall, Zagreb can play a constructive or a negative role in the Balkans. It is conflicted in Bosnia-Herzegovina because of the votes for HDZ from Croats. Zagreb has played a negative role in welcoming Dodik and Čović at highest levels, and in warmly receiving Lavrov after his deliberately provocative visit to Sarajevo. And, as well, in executing deals with Dodik, without approval of Sarajevo- stated Joseph.
Joseph especially points out that Bosniak politicians are also to blame for the deterioration of Croat-Bosniak relations.
-Electing the Croat member of the Presidency with votes of Bosniaks – while the Bosniak member is elected with Bosniak, not Croat, votes -- is not in the spirt of the Dayton Agreement. It is a violation of fundamental principles of fairness and equity. Also, utilizing demographic superiority to press political advantage is contrary to the spirit of the Dayton Agreement- Joseph pointed out.