BRUSSELS – Commenting on the recent discussions held at the 2018 Alpbach Forum, Adnan Ćerimagić, analyst at the European Stability Initiative think tank, warns about dangerous consequences the solution advocated by Presidents Hashim Thaçi and Aleksandar Vučić might have. In an op-ed for POLITICO, he argues that this kind of ideas lead to wars in former Yugoslavia.
If borders of Kosovo are changed along ethnic lines, that will once again give credibility to the idea that people are only ever safe among their own ethnic group, Ćerimagić writes. What would then stop the leaders of other multi-ethnic countries in the Western Balkans, such as Macedonia or Bosnia and Herzegovina, from doing the same, he asks.
These ideas, advocated by intellectuals and politicians in the wake of Yugoslavia’s bloody break-up, have already lead to fear, tensions, aggression and, ultimately, violence, Ćerimgaić reminds, adding that they can easily do that again.
“The task for our generation is not to negotiate over borders but to make them irrelevant — to turn Balkan borders into European borders, like those between Tyrol and South Tyrol or between Germany and Poland”, he writes.
In contrast to Presidents of Kosovo and Serbia, he believes that the optimal future of the region lies in lowering ethnic tensions and establishing stable multi-ethnic states based on democracy and rule of law. To illustrate the point, he describes the case of his birthplace city of Doboj (BiH) slowly becoming multi-ethic once again during the past two decades.
“In Doboj, half of the pre-war non-Serb population has returned — almost 20,000 of them. Mosques have been rebuilt, calls for prayer can be heard from minarets, Catholic and Muslim holidays are celebrated”, he writes.
Ćerimagić notes with regret that his appeal to Vučić and Thaçi to abandon the narrative of border change “has so far fallen on deaf ears”. He concludes with the assertion that, if this year’s Alpbach Forum really proves itself to be a historic one, as some members of the panel described it, it will be for all the wrong reasons.