On 17 March 2014, in Crimea was held the referendum for the reunion of autonomous republic with Russia. With half of the ballots counted, more than 90% of the voters answered ‘yes’ for this joining. On the other side Russia welcomed Crimea in its big family. On 18 March 2014, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, gave a speech where he announced the annexation of Crimea and this was later to be voted by the Russian Parliament.
But while there is still going on a ‘sanctions and negligence’ game between the great powers (Russia, USA and EU), a new volcano seems to be waking up: the Balkans. For days now the situation has been followed by Balkan states with a great caution. It seems like the situation in Crimea has touch an old wound that the Balkans have been trying to ignore for a long time.
17 Mart 2014 tarihinde Kırım’ın Rusya’ya bağlanması üzerine bir referandum gercekleştirildi. %90’ın üzerinde seçmenin evet demesiyle Kırım halkı, Rusya’ya bağlanmayı kabul etti. Böylelikle Rusya büyük ailesine Kırım’ı dahil etmiş oldu. Bir taraftan Kırım üzerine büyük güçler tarafından yaptırım ve müzakere oyunları devam ederken, Balkanlarda yeni bir yanar dağ patlamaya hazır bir halde bekliyor. Kırım’da yaş anan son olaylar Balkanların uzun zamandir göz ardı ettigi eski bir yaraya dokunmuşa benziyor.
After approximately two decades of ethnic conflicts, wars, poverty and struggles for development, the Balkans found itself scared and hopeful at the same time. Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina seems to be the ones that are more affected in the terms of the territorial issues. It’s the time where each minority within these three states feels like having a little bit “Crimea” inside it.
In a world full of political paradoxes, on 18 March there was witnessed a new paradox. While Russia continues not to recognize the independence of Kosovo after the separation from Serbia, it accepted Crimea with open arms within its borders. In here it should be mentioned also the fact that while in the case of Kosovo there was an existing threat of violence, expulsions and genocide, in the case of Crimea there was not the same situation.
Moreover in the southern of Serbia, the valley of Presevo, is mainly inhabited from the Albanian minority with more that 50,000 Albanians living in there. But in 1948 it was separated when Yugoslavia was formed. Despite the collapse of Yugoslavia and its partitioning, Presevo remained within the borders of Serbia. In 1992 there was held a referendum, being this unofficial, where most of the people voted to join Kosovo. Despite this it was not considered by Belgrade. Still nowadays this region lives under a lot of discontent and poorness. In an interview for “Presheva Jone” Jonuz Musliu, The Bujanovac Assembly Chairman stated that the Valley of Presevo has the right to join Kosovo. “If Moscow wants Crimea, then Tirana and Pristina should unite with the Presevo Valley region,” stated Mr. Musliu.
In the case of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is seen that a lot of people have applause the Russian decision. Republika Serbska, one of the political entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the one who may will now to join Serbia. During the years this entity has called for secession with Serbia but they remained just in words. After the events in Ukraine in case that they ask for a referendum for joining Serbia, that wouldn’t be a big surprise anymore. As history showed, the sovereignty of the states is not any more safe and the breach of the national and international laws “may be tolerated”.
But the “Crimea” impact over the Balkans is not closed only with the territorial issues. It seems like states as Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia are stacked in between European Union and Russia. There are two reasons for this: Gas and membership in the European Union. In the game being played by big powers, seem like the main players who will be affected are the small countries. It is them who should now make their move by condemning the actions of Russia or approve them.
In the case of Macedonia and Bulgaria, Russia is their main gas supplier and the pipelines pass through Ukraine. It means that these states are highly dependent on the Russian politics. This may be one of the reasons why Sergei Stanishev, the leader of the ruling party (BSP), said for the Sofia News Agency that Bulgaria “should not be among the hawks in the European Union” towards Russia. He also mentioned the fact that their economy is highly depended from the Russian gas and tourist. Because of this reason Bulgaria was not affirming the immediate sanctions over Russia. On the other hand, Macedonia has not yet given a clear decision about this issue. It is limited just with a vague declaration from the Ministry of Foreign Affair who called for responsibility and expressed its concern about the issue.
There is also Serbia, a state that is waiting on the door of EU, but still has not taken a clear position about the policies followed by Russia. According to the political director of “Konrad Adenauer” foundation, Henry Bone, Brussels is waiting a pro-EU position from Serbia. Even why Serbia may be dependent for the gas from Russia, at the same time it is state that has started the negotiations with EU. As a result EU has not been contented from the silence of Beograd these days. It is clear that the Beograd decision on the Crimean issue will be determinant also for the integration of Serbia in the European family.
As it may be assessed, the “Crimea issue” has a high impact in the Balkans. Being this impact not only on the ethnic issues but it is expanded more in economy and integration toward EU.