Competition in a narrow geopolitical area

Selim Ibraimi- As uncertainty continues around the globe, in Europe, and especially in the Balkans, the debate on whether governments will fulfill their pre-election promises remains to be seen. Meanwhile, some events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia have been important and influential for other geopolitical actors to engage in different ways in the Balkans. In another scenario, WB-6 states may lose their battle for integration into the EU, if the commitments made will not materialize with cooperation and neighborhood security. Due to external actors such as Russia and China, the Balkans may slip into low levels of tension. The recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Hungary and Serbia has pushed some geopolitical processes much faster than the EU’s agenda for the Balkans. This has a clear correlation that continues to worry the U.S. Serbia continues to work against the stability of everyone in the Balkans, and at the same time, it is playing the game of the strongman who can endanger neighboring countries with the help of radical forces. A state of uncertainty continues to grow from the actions of external actors to have a multiple and continuous impact on the EU and the Balkans. Competition in a narrow geopolitical area has always been a concern for centuries. Chinese and Russian politics are in fierce competition with the EU and the U.S., but as Serbia is playing a decisive and dual role on the side of China, and of course Russia, it remains unclear how soon it will be able to the Balkan states to become part of the EU, i.e. a new block of states against the two (Hungary and Serbia) that are getting stronger in Central Europe and the Balkans. Western politics has gone up and down and the question is whether it will continue with the same carrots or not. Perhaps the West will continue with the same measures due to the lack of a long-term strategy on how to deal with the other states of the Balkan region. The EU has given financial support to the Balkans as a way to improve economies and stability, but some peoples and governments of the Balkans are living under the dream of history. National governments try to manipulate the emotions of residents with fiery speeches from political leaders who say nothing about the poor and middle class of fragile Balkan societies. However, in some regions, populism and ideas against the EU and NATO have increased. Furthermore, the lack of projects and high unemployment have raised concerns about the inflow of foreign investment and loans, creating a high debt for national governments. The illusion for Chinese corporations and other Middle Eastern companies has brought new geo-economic realities to the Balkans in the face of aid coming from the EU. Competing in an area as narrow as the Balkans, where there are not many resources, with peoples and governments eager to talk more about the past, foreign actors continue to design games against each other at the expense of small peoples. The new games may lead to changes in leadership and may affect the loss of orientation and strategic commitment to stability and peace. For example, the Serbian government has declared for decades that it is working on the road to the EU, but the real situation shows that official Belgrade has not aligned its policy with the EU. Serbian leadership is stuck in nationalism and the history of the 15th and 19th centuries and will continue to pose a threat to other states in the region. Also, there are some new concerns that with the victory of VMRO-DPMNE, the right-wing party in North Macedonia in the presidential and parliamentary elections (April-May, 2024), the country may turn back from the path started towards the EU, strain relations with others, and ultimately seek new strategic alternatives. It must be admitted that there are always doubts in the foreign policy and diplomacy of the states when we have internal changes. But if the leadership does not fall into the previous mistakes, and does not read the history of the reverse, there is always a way to find solutions between the states. If the new government in Skopje falls into the trap of big geopolitical actors, and grudges with neighbors, then the new trio consisting of Hungary, Serbia, and North Macedonia, could enter into a tough game that could lead to the creation of a cold front not only against the West. All this can happen regardless of whether the countries are members of NATO. For more, we have to look at Slovakia’s attitude towards security in Europe. An increase in geopolitical competition in areas such as the Balkans may lead to governments refusing to comply with international agreements. And it may be a call for history to play the game in regional relations. In the geopolitical fog, the accuracy of realistic thinking is always difficult. But leaders should do their best for security and stability, not repeating their past mistakes. Therefore, governments must implement the signed agreements, even though they are not always as expected.

The article was written exclusively for Portalb. mk. The publication rights belong only to Portalb. mk and the author.

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