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Serbia-Kosovo land swap deal looms large over Bosnian elections

  • Dr Hikmet Karcic
  • 6 Oct 2018

The results of the election could have major repercussions for secessionist movements that threaten to tear Balkan borders apart.

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This Sunday, the general elections will be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although this is a small election in a small country, recent events have brought up big concerns about the outcome of the elections and what affects it could have in the future. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into two entities: the Bosniak and Croat majority Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb majority Republika Srpska. Both as largely autonomous regions with a loose state-level government as well as a symbolic ceremonial three member presidency. 

In a nutshell, the Bosnian Serb Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, are basing their campaign on genocide-denial, anti-immigration and calls for succession of the Bosnia and Herzegovina entity Republika Srpska

Now on the other hand the Bosnian Croat Croatian Democratic Union is opting for a third separate entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina which would be a Croat majority autonomous region. 

Neighbouring Serbia and Croatia are both supporting and generating these ideas with the final goal of carving up the country and for establishing greater nation-states. 

The “greater-state” pretensions in the Balkans are still alive and present. 

In the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about the proposed territorial swap between Serbia and Kosovo. 

Basically, Kosovo would give up its northern Serb-majority part and in return they would get the Albanian-majority Preševo valley to the east. 

Such a decision came to many as a shock since clear signals were given by the US administration as well as EU officials that such an agreement would be acceptable.

Redrawing borders is never a good idea. The consequences could be far reaching with unforeseeable unintended consequences. 

With each territorial swap, the people who are most affected are the local populations, who usually nobody consults or cares about.

Balkan Muslims, have been moved and removed, for the last 150 years during peacetime or war. 

The first major expulsions and mass atrocities were committed against Balkan Muslims during the Russian-Turkish War 1877-78 and continued throughout the Balkan Wars in 1912-13, World War I, “peacetime” expulsions from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, World War II, the “Alexandar Rankovic” period in Communist Yugoslavia, the expulsion of ethnic Turks and Pomaks from Communist Bulgaria and finally during the last Bosnian Genocide in 1992-1995 and the Kosovo War in1999. 

Each and every time, the Muslim population and territory has shrunk in Europe, often with overt or silent acquiescence from major powers. 

If this agreement does go through, it will spark a new wave of similar ideas throughout the Balkans which will not be favourable for Balkan Muslims. 

The first in line to take advantage of this situation will be the Serb-dominated Bosnia and Herzegovina entity Republika Srpska.  It is now almost certain that this entity will opt for secession in the near future. 

If secession is successful, Republika Srpska will likely join in a confederation with Serbia and their next targets would be the Bosniak Muslim minority in Sanjak region as well as the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina.

Three former High Representatives for Bosnia and Herzegovina wrote an open letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urging her not to go ahead with the Serbia-Kosovo land swap. 

Whoever has worked or researched in Bosnia and Herzegovina knows that such a  decision  will take a heavy toll on the country since Serbia has never given up aspirations to grab territory away from it. 

No one should be fooled, Serbia and Republika Srpska breath and act as one body, just like during the aggression and genocide of 1990s, and ever since. 

Everything that takes place is coordinated and well-thought out. The Kosovo leadership must also bear in mind that if it does accept this partition plan, this won’t be the end to their issues with Serbia.

On the other hand, if the proposed land-swap goes through, this will embolden other secessionist movements throughout Europe which will open up Pandora’s Box - an unecessary development.

The only solution for the current state of affairs in the Balkans is for the US and EU, once and for all,  to give a strong and clear message to Balkan states that establishing nation-states is an idea of the past and that a Sykes–Picot style map drawing has never brought anyone any good.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to opinion.editorial@trtworld.com

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