Thursday, June 20, 2024
 
 

Slovenia provokes with non-paper supporting Balkan partitions

Nebulous non-paper suggesting partitions in Bosnia and Kosovo draws sharp criticism from US and EU

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A non-paper purported to be of Slovenian authorship has drawn increasing attention over the last weeks that it has been circulating because it appears to treat territorial changes in Southeastern Europe as part of an ultimate solution to the region’s lingering ethnic conflicts. 
This so-called non-paper proposes the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina along ethnic lines, joining the territories majority populated by Serbs and Croats to Serbia and Croatia respectively, as well as the unification of Kosovo and Albania minus Kosovo’s Serbian-populated segments.
Because Slovenia is scheduled to join the rotating EU Council presidency “trio” in the second half of 2021, the simple hint of Slovenian authorship bolsters the status of the document.  
Document of unknown origin
The true source of the document may well remain a mystery, but regional media last week attributed the paper to Janez Jansa, Prime Minister of Slovenia, who quickly denied this, as other senior Slovenian officials continue to do. Various regional leaders happily increased the confusion about the document.  Just re-elected Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama claimed he had seen the document, while President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, denied reading it.  Montenegrin President Milo Dukanovic described the document this way “it is a dangerous thing, it has been offered by someone who wants a war to happen as soon as possible.”
Difficult to take seriously
At first glance, the paper appears to be so out of focus that it is easy to consider it as either some low-level policy planning official off his/her daily medications, or a quasi-sophisticated attempt at destabilizing the region through disinformation by anyone’s choice of malign actors.  At least those were the options this author initially considered when the non-paper landed in New Europe’s daily feed early in April.  
What is harder to understand is why this document has continued to gather energy and attract attention across the region instead of moving briskly to the deletion bin.  Is there more substance to it than just the standard pattern of sensationalist regional journalists and Balkan-monitoring NGOs competing in a region-wide “echo chamber” to go on and generate increasingly scandalous stories/blogs about this mysterious document?   There is still no available evidence that the non-paper represents the thinking of serious or influential persons. 
US and EU react 
After the rumblings across the region over the document reached a significant volume, reactions from Washington and Brussels became unavoidable.  
The US State Department issued a rather unusual press release on April 26 entitled “US Commitment to the Western Balkans” which covers a grab bag of issues, and at first glance would not be seen as a reaction to the non-paper news stories.  However, the final paragraph holds the core message and explains the rationale for this press statement.  “As we have seen, recent unwarranted speculation about changing borders in the Balkans along ethnic lines risks fostering instability in the region and evokes memories of past tensions.  A stable, prosperous future for the Western Balkans must be based on good governance, rule of law, multi-ethnic democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” 
Full text here: 
https://www.state.gov/u-s-commitment-to-the-western-balkans/
In addition to numerous tweets from a range of EU officials, European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer repeated the well known EU mantra on anything related to territorial swaps and border changes, “We are absolutely not in favor of any changes in borders.” 
 

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CEO/Editor-in-Chief.  Former US diplomat with previous assignments in Eastern Europe, the UN, SE Asia, Greece, across the Balkans, as well as Washington DC.

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