Standing up to Serbia in the Balkans

From 1992 to 1995 there was a war in Bosnia and Serbia after Yugoslavia broke up. This war was fought with the goal to have only one ethnic group in Serbia. The Serbs instigated the war, wanting their ethnic group to dominate the Balkan region. In 1995 the United States and NATO stepped in and forced the three groups, Bosnians, Coats and Serbs to come to a peace agreement, known as the Dayton Peace Agreement. This ended the war and gave Serbians the right to self-government in Bosnia while still giving the other two ethnic groups, Bosnians and Croats power through self government. 

However, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a majority of the ethnic population is Serbian, which was a change from before the war where it was a majority of Muslims. The Serbian officials here do not represent the other two ethnic groups, the Bosnians and Croats, which has continued to make ethnicity a subject of great importance to them. It has also made life more difficult for people of those groups because of the ethnic divides, and many have felt unwelcome in the places they grew up or currently live in,  and many have expressed the desire to leave

Recently Serbians have been trying to gain more control in the Balkans once again. They have been doing this by trying to combine Serbians who live in Bosnia and Herzegovina with Serbia itself in the hope of expanding Serbia. Serbia has additionally been expanding their military, and they have the backing of Russia. While there was a high possibility for peace in the future for the Balkans, Serbian nationalism has brought them back to a potentially rocky future. Serbia’s end goal is to control the entire Balkans area to create a “Greater Serbia”. They are doing this by spreading chaos, creating more tension, and calling on Serbians to refuse to listen to government officials in their own countries. 

In 2008 Kosovo split from Serbia, declaring their independence after they won the Kosovo war which allowed them to become independent from Serbia. Due to the Serbians living in Northern Kosovo, Serbia has tried to regain control in that area and they have done this by spreading nationalistic ideas, propaganda, and they have built a wall separating the Serbians in North Kosovo from the rest of Kosovo, which was later taken down by the government. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo as separate from Serbia and has recently sent a train into Kosovo that caused quite a stir. A train that was going from Belgrade to Kosovo had “Kosovo is Serbian” written on it along with other Serbian nationalist phrases and was stopped at the border between Kosovo and Serbia. This was the first train that was meant to travel from Serbia to Kosovo since the Kosovo war. It was supposed to boost peace and work to strengthen ties and unity between the two peoples. However, it just caused more tension between them due to Serbia’s strong nationalist views. Kosovo has been working to try and keep peace with Serbia and to dissolve tensions but the Serbians lack of respect for Kosovo’s freedom has justifiably upset them. When the government officials stopped the train the Serbian government was not pleased with this action, as their goal was to increase tension throughout Kosovo, and when they heard that the train was stopped they threatened to send in their army.

 The United States has tried to help ease tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, they proposed a deal which states that both places will work together economically. This proposal was aimed at gaining Serbian recognition of Kosovo but President Aleksander Vucic said “There is no possibility for me to sign any document that implies the recognition of Kosovo, and I have clearly said that to both the Albanians and Americans.” Nationalism in Serbia runs deeply. Aleksandar Vulin, the Defense Minister of Serbia, even said that the Serbian government “will defend Serbs wherever they live,” and they have proved that this along with similar sentiments are true. However, Serbia, like a lot of other Balkan countries, has been trying to gain membership into the European Union. Because the EU would frown on Serbian aggression, this could put a halt to Serbia’s nationalist expansion. This might lead to peace and recognition between Serbia and the other Balkan countries. Only time will tell for sure.  

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