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Return of the Balkans: Challenges to European Integration and U.S. Disengagement

Return of the Balkans: Challenges to European Integration and U.S. Disengagement

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For the first time in modern history, the entire Balkan Peninsula has the opportunity to be included under one security and developmental umbrella combining NATO and the European Union. Unfortunately, this historic vision is being undermined by a plethora of political, social, economic, ethnic, and national disputes and the shortcomings of Western institutions in eliminating potential security challenges.
For the first time in modern history, the entire Balkan Peninsula has the opportunity to be included under one security and developmental umbrella combining NATO and the European Union. Unfortunately, this historic vision is being undermined by a plethora of political, social, economic, ethnic, and national disputes and the shortcomings of Western institutions in eliminating potential security challenges.

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03/24/2015

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Some Western Balkan politicians and analysts con-
tend that international actors should not block the op-
tion of state partition and territorial exchange if this is
acceptable to both sides in a dispute. While U.S. and
EU policymakers oppose any further state divisions,
some observers believe that the disintegration of Yu-
goslavia has not been completed. For example, trying
to preserve Bosnia-Herzegovina as a single state or
maintaining Serbian majority municipalities inside

Kosova may be costly, confictive, and ultimately

counterproductive.
If violence is to be avoided, such partition propos-
als are only realistic where they are acceptable to all
parties in the dispute and are seen as part of an amica-
ble territorial exchange. It may be feasible to exchange
the four northern municipalities of Kosova containing
a Serbian majority for three southern municipalities
in Serbia with an Albanian majority or to exchange
minority populations between the two regions. How-
ever, this would require several conditions, including
a bilateral agreement between the two governments
recognizing each other’s statehood, a public referen-
dum and agreement by the affected populations to
join a new state, appropriate compensation for civil-
ians displaced by the arrangement who do not wish to
join another state, and international supervision of the
entire process to guarantee that it is conducted fairly
and peacefully.

150

Without these conditions, the secession of RS from
Bosnia-Herzegovina will spark demands for the sepa-
ration of Sandzak from Serbia, and the secession of
northern Kosova will stimulate demands for the sepa-
ration of the Presevo valley from Serbia. This is likely
to encourage other secessionist movements, whose
leaders will calculate that the most effective strategy
for success is to provoke violence and government
retaliation, capture international media attention, and
thereby gain the political initiative. Such scenarios
will also encourage governments to stage crackdowns
to prevent separatism, while nationalist militants may
arm themselves on the pretext of defending national
integrity and ensuring state survival.

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