The Warning of the Well-Informed Lady

I have understood her presentation as a careful warning of a well-informed lady. It was not intended as a justification of what had already been said and even less as an apology for decisions made. No, it was simply a message that warned of possible consequences. At the last conference of her party, Angela Merkel once again talked about the dangers of complete closure of borders in front of refugees and migrants and all those who, for whatever reason, joined this mass of people. At the very start, it looked as if she were going to reiterate her well-known stance regarding massive relocations and barely controlled refugee crisis. The tensions we have witnessed lately in the Balkans are dangerous and that is the reason why quarrels can easily turn into physical confrontation which again may turn into something nobody wants i.e. new military clashes which could arise from these tensions.

German Chancellor has access to series of reliable information and well thought-through analyses, including statements of the German Federal Intelligence Service and its director Mr. Gerhard Schindler, who has thorough knowledge of political and other circumstances in the region. Mrs. Merkel is familiar with the methods used to solve refugee crisis in the late nineties of the last century particularly when masses of refugees from Kosovo and even FYR Macedonia, Albania and B&H made their way, mainly through Croatia and Slovenia, into Austria and Germany. Back then, when I was a guest of the German Ministry of Interior, he talked about the dangers which mutual accusations of ushering refuges to the borders of neighbouring countries may pose to the fragile Balkan peace.

Slovenia faced similar difficulties too. Naturally, they were of a quite smaller scale. However, apparently very well organised and large groups of people appeared on our borders eager to make illegal entrance into the country in order to continue their journey. I have met with Ivan Penić on several occasions and with his successor Mr. Šime Lučin as well. The conclusions of these dialogues were similar to those drawn today – the necessity of deciding which refugees are to cross the state borders and arranging the time and place for it.

At around the same time, FBI’s director Mr. Louis Freeh arrived in Ljubljana with identical questions regarding the manner which can adequately and in terms of safety, satisfactorily regulate a very sensitive issue such as refugeedom. Schily and Freeh knew well the possible consequences of aggravation of relationships in the region where mutual wars were just coming to an end. However, nobody spoke about that. Everything was deemed manageable.

Angela Merkel says that everything is different now. In order to understand the situation we need to precisely identify the difference i.e. what has changed in the course of the last few days, particularly after the meeting of the heads of states along the refugee route.

Here we have two types of problems.

The contacts between the heads of countries of the region have been largely and almost completely suspended. Political decision to jointly work on resolving mutual open issues has fallen into oblivion. In communications between these countries we witnessed a relapse to vocabulary which probably belonged to a very different time. Time of hostilities and wars.

However, this could not have been the reason behind the Merkel’s current estimate of the possibility for new wars.

The second issue has to do with an attempt of individual countries of the region to increase their influence. The tendency is best discernible in Montenegro. Anti-government protests in the country, voicing demands for takeover of power or temporary division of power, did not have a particularly strong social context. They were also inspired by discontent and anger at the administration practices and corruption of those in power. However, they were unconvincing. At least two of the key political figures opted not to join the protests.

I refer to the two opposition leaders: Žarko Rakčević and Miodrag Lekić. I have known Rakčević for quite a while. I trust his arguments that the government is overburdened. However, despite that, he did not take part in the public protests in Podgorica. For this reason, it is all the more conspicuous that protests coincided first with the statement of the U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the possible membership of Montenegro in NATO and then with the U.S.A. statement on temporary consent for Montenegro’s membership in NATO. This sort of consent is given quite within their comfort zone meaning neither “no” nor “yes” and implies express consent only if no major changes occur in the country.

I’m inclined to believe that the misunderstanding of the temporary nature of this consent is the very reason behind the protests against Milo Đukanović. And they may be the last resort to prevent country’s membership in NATO.

This also was nothing new for Merkel and could not have pushed her to give such a radical assessment of the possibility of new wars in the region. This has to do with very diverse and attractive offerings of new military technologies and armament for individual countries, though they are used for political promotion rather than for actual armament. And above all, these offerings are much too expensive for the countries of the region.

Still, there’s the third reason. Dangerous and somewhat disguised.

The first is the Brussels agreement between Belgrade and Priština, Serbia and Kosovo, on regulation of mutual relations. The agreements and decisions adopted by the Prime Ministers of both countries, with the help of EU High Representative Mogherini are final and binding. This means that official Belgrade cannot problematize, and Priština even less so, what was agreed upon nor can they obstruct the agreement reached on self-government of Serb municipalities in the north of Kosovo or the method of management of large energy facilities.

The second reason is the ultimatum on the referendum in Republika Srpska. The party of the President Milorad Dodik adopted the Declaration of Independence with amendment that its status may be reviewed in the next three years. Those who proposed this completely overlooked that fact that this entity represents only a portion of the Dayton Agreement. Therefore, the referendum would imply a unilateral stepping out of the Agreement which was the subject matter of very precise negotiations. It would imply the extraction of the central formula of the Agreement specifying one country, two strong entities and three constitutional peoples.

It is a process which could lead to serious dangers of a new war in the region which could start by the very cancellation of concluded international agreements.

For these reasons, European Union simply has to apply any and all mechanisms available to prevent this. EU demands adherence to the covenants agreed and signed.
And this is what lies behind the warning of the well-informed lady.