Genc Pollo is a former minister and member of Albanian parliament.
“War is too important to be left to the generals” is a bon mot attributed to Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister who oversaw the victory of his country and the Entente Alliance in the First World War.
I would hesitate a lot to apply his wisdom to diplomats dealing with the Balkans, especially with former Yugoslavia problems. And diplomats here means primarily European and US officials trying to find solutions to challenges ranging from bloody conflicts to dangerous political impasses.
We ought to be thankful for their well-meaning efforts and should celebrate the ones with successful outcomes.
Still listening to an interview of Christopher Hill, the US Ambassador to Serbia with the Atlantic Council, I was a bit perplexed (disclosure: he’s a good friend of mine from the early 90s when he was a cooperative & helpful Deputy Head of Mission in Tirana).
Chris Hill is connoisseur of the region with a lot of experience in difficult situations; he is right in most of what he says. But some of his assertions could be problematic. Let us take these issues one by one.
Issue 1: “I am not sure is a valid criticism to say that the Open Balkan is an effort by Serbia to dominate the others. This was said decades ago in the EU about Germany, as being too big”.
Germany is big for sure, but in the initial EEC of six and the actual #EU of 27 member states, she finds herself in a balanced structure; in terms of political power, economic weight and population. Berlin carries much weight but can’t/doesn’t rule single-handedly. Look at the @ECB
Besides post-war Germany is a friendly democracy (more on this further down)
Contrary to that, in an, especially non-institutionalized, Open Balkans trio Serbia would rule unchallenged.
Issue 2: “(Open Balkans) does support EU standards, in terms of the rule of law, in terms of regulations”
It remains a mystery to many why people supporting #OpenBalkans are silent about the Common Regional Market of the Berlin Process. Or trash it along with The latter having all the pretended virtues of the former and none of its serious downsides. Simple question: would you trust the observance of EU standards in a #WesternBalkans initiative where the EU (and the US) is institutionally involved rather than in a local get-together by corrupt autocrats? Because lobbyists might paint whatever Potemkin village, Serbia and Albania are well advanced in their latest trajectory towards one-person rule.
Issue 3: “I would say that the Serbian relationship with Albania is as good as it’s probably ever been in history”
The relationship between Albania and Serbia has generally been always excellent or normal. Including ironically during the rule of Enver Hoxha and Josip Broz Tito. They got awry when things in Kosovo turned terrible. The current rapprochement, by the way, Rama and Vučić are like solving a problem that doesn’t exist. It hasn’t contributed in any meaningful way to any “normalisation” between Kosovo and Serbia, let alone mutual recognition, which is the crux of the matter!
Let us deal another day with the standard view that it has complicated the Kosovo issue.
Issue 4 “But I think, if you look at the broad sweep of this issue and the broad arc of where Serbia is going, it’s heading West. You point out their opinion surveys that suggest that Serbia that many Serbs have sympathies that lie further east. …if you look at where Serbian young people are going for their education for jobs, for their training and what type of model they see themselves focusing on, it’s very much toward the West.”
Past are the days when people in the West believed globalisation and economic engagement would tame China and Russia, nudging them towards becoming responsible actors in the rules-based world order.
And we’ve seen Chinese and Russians, including the nomenclature offspring, enjoying life or studying in the West to return home only to embrace autocracy and imperial revisionism. Which, to some reasonable extent, applies to Serbia. Because the nature of the Serbian regime has not changed much, and its propaganda has worsened.
If the model of post-Milosević Serbia applied to post-war Germany, it would mean having Joseph Goebels as West Germany’s chancellor in the 60s. They would refuse to adopt Western policies toward the Soviets.
This is reality, and embellishing it isn’t helpful.