Over the past two decades, the Balkans have been one of the areas on the margins of the foreign policy apparatus of many Muslim countries, despite the presence of a Muslim population in continental Europe. However, in the academic and media environment of these countries, Balkan`s developments have been neglected to some extent. The reasons are mainly due to the challenges that Islamic countries in general, especially in the Middle East, have internally (pressure from economic sanctions) in the region (US policy towards Afghanistan and Iraq, emergence of Arab uprisings and terrorist groups such as ISIS) and have been grappling with them. We note that twenty-six years ago, at that time, the Dayton Peace Accords ended the bloody four-year war between Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992-1995. A war in which Muslim countries, including Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, provided material and spiritual support to the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On this occasion, it will not be without merit to evaluate the potential issues of this geographical area and its developments.

When Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991 and the six republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and later Montenegro moved towards independence from Yugoslavia, it was expected that the Balkan region, which had always inherited many bloody and historic wars, would get involved in a bloody and painful war. However, a quarter of a century after the end of the Balkan Wars, speculation, and evidence are once again signaling a new crisis in the region. In this regard, the first point that comes to mind is how effective the numerous peace agreements in the region have been.

The war between Serbia and Slovenia and the war between Serbia and Croatia ended in 1991 under Western pressure; but the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina lasted nearly four years, leaving nearly 200,000 dead and wounded. In December 1995 the Dayton Peace Agreement is signed between Serbian, Croat, and Muslim leaders in the Balkan region at Dayton Military Base in Ohio, USA, to find a lasting solution to end this bloody war. But today none of the Dayton signatories are alive to judge the peace gains they have signed. Slobodan Milosevic, a Serb, died in a prison in The Hague – before a 2006 war crimes verdict. Croatian Franjo Tojman was president of Croatia at the time of his death in 1999, and Ali Ezzat Begovic, the Muslim leader of Bosnia and Herzegovina, died in 2003. The fact is that all of these leaders at the time agreed that Dayton was the final and necessary solution to end the war and conflict, but it is not enough for lasting peace in the region.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into two entities under the Dayton Accords: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska, which was governed by a less independent central government led by a representative of the international community to perhaps manage the country’s ethnic and religious crises. But today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is once again on the brink of a violent crisis due to the capacity and efforts of Serb separatists in the Republika Srpska. The Serbian parliament, which a few weeks ago unilaterally considered the steps for secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is an event that can bring a hot winter to all the Balkan countries.

Rambouillet agreement; Kosovo’s failed independence

In 1999, a bloody war broke out in southern Serbia between Kosovo’s Muslim Albanians and Serbs. The Kosovo Liberation Army declared its goal of independence for the Kosovo region, but Serbia thwarted this separation with an iron fist, and the Kosovo conflict resulted in tens of thousands of casualties. Once again, the West stepped into the Balkan Square, this time making peace in Rambouillet in France. Ahtisaari, the former Finnish prime minister and joint envoy of the United Nations and the European Union, have held Kosovo talks for a decade in the hope of finding a final peace solution in Kosovo. This failed, and Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008. According to the available evidence and developments, if the crisis of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina reactivates; the issue of Kosovo will flare up again for Serbia.

Ohrid Agreement; Sterile peace in Macedonia

The bloody war in Macedonia in 2001 sounded another alarming tone in the Balkans. This time, the Western society was quicker to end the crisis As a result, the Ohrid Agreement was concluded with the intervention of the European Union, with the aim to end the conflict between Albania, Muslim, and Macedonian Christians. Accordingly, the Albanians were to receive a 30% share in the Macedonian government, a commitment that has not been fulfilled, thus Macedonia is more involved in ethnic crises than ever before. If in the near future there is a conflict – albeit limited – between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and Serbia in the Balkans, ethnic Albanians from Macedonia will likely incline in Kosovo’s favor.

Slovenia and Croatia

Slovenia and Croatia have been named the most secure countries in the Balkans. While this region is prone to crisis and war, they have experienced the least damage from the conflicts in this region. Both countries are members of NATO and have joined the European Union. But the Balkans is very small, and one cannot ignore the fact that any change in the borders can quickly spread like a pandemic to all the members and the surrounding countries.

In conclusion, according to what has happened many observers and experts in the Balkans agree that the current situation in the Balkans, like the inflamed atmosphere of the early 1990s, is prone to uprisings and security and ethnic crises. Although the current regional order can be sustained by the positive role-playing of foreign actors and international institutions the same influential foreign actors also can upset the current balance of power in the Balkans in the event of a conflict, and play a destructive role by blowing fire under the ashes of potential crises. However, at present Europe and the United States are reluctant to add another crisis in their relations with Russia, as we witness the challenges in Ukraine. Overcoming the current obstacles to the region’s accession to the European Union may, to some extent, contribute to the stability of security and peaceful relations between these countries.


Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

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About the author:


Amin Bagheri is a Research Fellow at the International Studies Association in Tehran. His primary research interest lies in international relations, transnational governance, international peace, and conflicts in the Middle East.

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