Genc Pollo is a former minister and member of the Albanian parliament.
“War is too important to be left to generals” is a bon mot attributed to Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister who oversaw the victory of his country and the Entente Alliance in World War I.
I would be very hesitant to apply his wisdom to diplomats dealing with the Balkans, particularly the problems of the former Yugoslavia. And diplomats here mainly mean European and American officials trying to find solutions to challenges ranging from bloody conflicts to dangerous political stalemates.
We should be grateful for their well-meaning efforts and should celebrate those who have succeeded.
Still listening to an interview with Christopher Hill, the US Ambassador to Serbia to the Atlantic Council, I was a bit perplexed (disclosure: he’s been a good friend of mine since the early 90’s when he was the cooperative and helpful Deputy Head of Mission in Tirana).
Chris Hill is a local connoisseur with extensive experience in difficult situations; he is right in most of what he says. But some of his claims could be problematic. Let’s take these problems one by one.
Number 1 : “I’m not sure it’s a valid criticism to say that Open Balkan is an effort by Serbia to dominate the others. It was said decades ago in the EU about Germany being too big”.
Germany is big, sure, but in the original EEC of six and the current #EU of 27 member states, it finds itself in a balanced structure; in terms of political power, economic weight and population. Berlin has a lot of weight but cannot/does not govern on its own. Watch the @ECB
Besides post-war, Germany is a friendly democracy (more on that below)
Contrary to this, in an open Balkan trio, especially not institutionalized, Serbia would reign supreme.
Number 2 : “(Open Balkans) supports EU standards, in terms of rule of law, in terms of regulations”
Why #OpenBalkans supporters remain silent on the Berlin Process Regional Common Market remains a mystery to many. Or throw it with The latter having all the alleged virtues of the former and none of its serious disadvantages. Simple question: would you trust the respect of European standards in a #WesternBalkans initiative where the EU (and the United States) are institutionally involved rather than in a local gathering of corrupt autocrats? Because lobbyists could paint any Potemkin village, Serbia and Albania are well along in their final trajectory to one-person rule.
Problem 3: “I would say that the Serbian relationship with Albania is as good as it probably has ever been in history”
Relations between Albania and Serbia have generally always been excellent or normal. Including ironically under the reign of Enver Hoxha and Josip Broz Tito. They went wrong when things went wrong in Kosovo. The current rapprochement, by the way, Rama and Vučić is like solving a problem that does not exist. It has not contributed significantly to any “normalization” between Kosovo and Serbia, and even less to mutual recognition, which is the crux of the matter!
Let’s deal another day with the usual view that this has complicated the Kosovo issue.
Number 4″But I think if you look at the wide range of this issue and the wide arc of the direction that Serbia is taking, it is heading west. You point to their opinion polls which suggest that many Serbs have more eastern sympathies. … if you look at where young Serbians go for their education for jobs, for their training and what kind of role model they see themselves focusing on, it’s more towards the West.
Gone are the days when Westerners believed that globalization and economic engagement would tame China and Russia, pushing them to become responsible players in the rules-based global order.
And we have seen Chinese and Russians, including the offspring of nomenclature, enjoying life or studying in the West only to return home only to embrace autocracy and imperial revisionism. Which, to some reasonable extent, applies to Serbia. For the nature of the Serbian regime has not changed much, and its propaganda has worsened.
If the model of post-Milosević Serbia applied to post-war Germany, it would mean having Joseph Goebels as Chancellor of West Germany in the 1960s. They would refuse to embrace Western policy towards the Soviets.
This is reality, and embellishing it is useless.