The Pro-Russian leadership of the Balkans is now facing a whole new challenge. The Balkan QUAD, what is Balkan QUAD and why is it a sign of worry for Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina?
On March 29th, 2023, North Macedonia, along with Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro, announced the formation of an informal alliance called the Western Balkans QUAD. The aim of this alliance is to align the foreign and security policies of the four nations with the European Union’s Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP). North Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bujar Osmani, Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhaçka, Kosovo’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Kreshnik Ahmeti, and Montenegrin Prime Minister Ore Radulovi jointly announced the initiative.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the alliance’s main goal is to completely align the four countries of the Balkan region with the EU’s foreign and security policy. This is especially important in light of recent changes in the geopolitical landscape, hybrid threats, the energy crisis, and the economic effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. North Macedonia expressed its support for the creation of the Balkan QUAD forum, noting that each of the participating nations had proven their reliability as NATO and EU allies by supporting the sanctions against Ukraine and by giving it humanitarian and technical aid.
Osmani briefed the other participants on the impending reforms while reiterating North Macedonia’s dedication to its European course. A recent decision to host talks between Kosovo and Serbia in Ohrid served as confirmation of North Macedonia’s reputation for multi-ethnic democracy and cohesion, he added. It is worth noting that the region is already home to another collaborative initiative called Open Balkan, which aims to facilitate the free and easy movement of trade and people throughout the region. This initiative includes Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia, but Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina are not part of it due to concerns about Serbia and the potential negative impact on their EU ambitions.
👏 Tdy in #Skopje we launched #WB QUAD 🇲🇰 🇦🇱 🇽🇰 🇲🇪 w/ 100% 🇪🇺 #CFSP alignment
👉 Platform for closer coop. among the countries w/ full compliance with the #EU CFSP, but also more broadly with the democratic values & principles @xhacka_olta @gervallaschwarz @Kreshnik_A @MFA_MNE pic.twitter.com/uHiKeinr8E
— Bujar Osmani (@Bujar_O) March 29, 2023
But, in the new Balkan QUAD, two primary members of the Balkans are missing, Serbia and Bosnia- Herzegovina. There was no announcement or indication of why Serbia was absent from the initiative. Similarly, even Bosnia and Herzegovina have refrained from commenting.
Balkan QUAD: The Anti-Western stance!
Since the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, Serbia and the European Union, and NATO have had a protracted and complicated relationships. NATO began a military offensive against Serbia at this time to halt the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo. This 78-day campaign caused serious harm to Serbia’s infrastructure and numerous civilian fatalities.
Relations between Serbia and these organizations further strained in 2008 after the EU recognized Kosovo’s independence. Serbia considers Kosovo to be an integral part of its territory and has refused to recognize it as a separate state. In the past, Serbia has also been reluctant to join NATO due to historical mistrust and a desire to maintain neutrality. Serbia has traditionally had close ties with Russia, which is also a factor in its relationship with NATO.
The current President of Serbia, Alexander Vucic has been known for being a strong opponent of Western sentiments in the Balkans. President Vucic accused the United States and the European Union of interfering in Serbia’s internal affairs. This came after the EU criticized Serbia for its treatment of opposition politicians and the media.
Vucic stated that Serbia would not allow the West to dictate its political agenda and would instead focus on building closer ties with Russia and China. He also accused the West of double standards, stating that they were quick to criticize Serbia while turning a blind eye to similar issues in their own countries. Due to Serbia’s close ties to Russia during the Yugoslavian era, Vucic has also been hesitant to impose sanctions on Russia.
Vucic caused the West a lot of trouble in the Balkans as he consistently derails all the advancements the EU has been trying to make there. And now that Vucic has a new ally to thwart the EU’s plans simultaneously, the EU’s fear of losing the region has grown immensely. The current Serb President of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite government, Milorad Dodik, is well known for his support to Russia. He has pushed for closer ties between Bosnia- Herzegovina and Russia, much like Vucic has, and has been a vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Dodik has recently shown his determination to completely isolate Serb regions from Western influence. Just a few days ago, Dodik pushed for a law designating NGOs as “Foreign Agents.” The EU and US harshly criticized this action.
Dodik has also asserted on numerous occasions that he is not eager to advance any cooperation between the EU and Bosnia. In addition, Dodik had threatened to sever ties with American and British diplomats, and embassies in Bosnia-Herzegovina over what his office claimed as meddling in Bosnia’s internal affairs.
Dodik’s actions have undoubtedly made Western leaders too anxious about their future in the Balkans and so, this move by North Macedonia is not at all surprising. In reality, it was bound to happen. North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski is known for being a harsh critic of Russia after the Ukraine war. Whereas it will be a lot better if we don’t talk about Kosovo as we all know, it is any day the creation of the West itself.
Read More: Bosnia- Herzegovina’s President decides to throw out every European and American agenda peddler
The election of Milorad Dodik in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a reminder of the declining Pro-EU and Pro-West sentiment in the Balkans. The Ukraine conflict has become a battleground for influence and Russia seeks to bring the Balkans back into its sphere of influence. Dodik’s pro-Russian stance is indicative of the growing polarization in the region toward leaving the Western shadow entirely. As Russia continues to push for closer ties with countries in the Balkans, a Balkan QUAD of western pawns conjoining together was anticipated.
However, it remains to be seen how the region will navigate its complex geopolitical landscape in the coming years. But for now, Dodik and Vucic have the higher ground.
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