In these days, when the international community has focused on Ukraine and Gaza wars, the other agendas have remained in the background. However, developments in other potential hotspots such as the Balkans and Taiwan, should not be ignored.
It is said that Russia can distract attention by spreading the Ukrainian impasse to the Balkans through Transnistria. It is also known that the USA, which cannot stop the rise of China on its own, intends to create a perception of a clash of civilizations and to confuse the China Taiwan waters by attracting the West to its side.
It is also seen that the Gaza war is being forcibly tried to be put into Huntington’s format of a clash of civilizations and the impression of an East-West bloc war.
Any ethnically based conflict in the Balkans would create a humanitarian problem perhaps even more dramatic than those in Ukraine and Gaza. Likewise, a possible USA-China conflict over Taiwan could be the trigger for a new world war.
There is still instability in the new republics of the former Yugoslavia.
In this sense, the hottest spots are Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Kosovo.
Of course, a conflict that arises at any point in the Balkan geography can disrupt the entire region and drag it into a destructive conflict with unpredictable consequences. Although a calm atmosphere prevails in the Balkans due to Ukraine and Gaza developments, Kosovo stands out as the most risky land prone to explosion.
The Serbian-Albanian conflict in the Balkans now often causes concern in Europe over Kosovo.
However, Kosovo’s independence was the last link in the great transformation of the Balkans in the 1990s.
Serbia has declared that it will never accept the independence of Kosovo, which it considers its spiritual heart, and has tried with all its might to prevent Kosovo from being recognized.
In fact, although the recognition could not be withdrawn in international law practice, Serbia, with threats and intimidation, forced some of the recognizing countries to reverse their decisions.
The political deadlock in the middle of the Balkans, which has not been resolved for 15 years and which both sides consider a “national issue,” continues to escalate with crises that arise occasionally.
One of the developments that has interrupted the dialogue talks in recent months is the customs crossing with Serbia.
The problem was the non-recognition of Kosovo license plates. But when Pristina retaliated, Serb-dominated areas in the north started protests. While the two sides were putting their soldiers on alert, the Russian Ambassador in Belgrade appeared on the borders of Kosovo to support the Serbs, and the Russian Wagner militia was seen in the clashes. In another crisis, Kosovo Serbs boycotted the local elections held in recent months. In the elections, where the turnout was three percent, Kosovo Albanian parties won about 30 municipalities. Serbs protested against the inauguration of municipalities that won the elections they did not consider legitimate, preventing them from entering the buildings.
Recurring crises in the Serb-dominated regions in the north of Kosovo can sometimes confront Belgrade, Washington, NATO, the EU, and Moscow.
We can say that the international balances, which were turned upside down by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pushed the Balkans to a more sensitive position. The occupation also started a period that caused a syndrome in critical geographies. The Balkans are the closest region that can be affected by this.
It is possible that Russia can draw international attention to the Balkans as a way out of its military squeeze and psychological defeat.
If Russia maintains its ethnic interest in Transnistria, like Crimea and Donbas, the alarm bells may extend to the Balkans via Moldova. A new ethnic conflict in the Balkans could lead to proxy wars more violent than Ukraine, unpredictable border changes, and dramatic mass migrations. The Ukrainian effect in the Balkans can accelerate the region's integration with the West or fuel ethnic civil wars.
It is in Europe’s interest to speed up the process of bringing the Balkans under the EU umbrella, even though it is late. If the region, which is surrounded by EU countries, remains outside the Union, it may pose risks that will undermine the EU order.
The insistence on reforms, criteria, and homework, which leads to allegations that the EU is applying double standards to the countries of the region, is an approach that slows down the desirable scenario.
The fact that a solution to the border and ethnic instability is still being sought even 30 years after the great transformation shows, in a way, the EU’s inability to take the region into the Union as a whole.
Filling the gap where the EU failed due to its ineffective policies by Russia or China will not only hamper the region’s efforts to integrate with the West but will also mean the erosion of Western influence and especially a loss of reputation of the EU and NATO.