Russia in the Balkans

Fatjon Prroni of the Turkish Andalou agency asked, so I replied:

– Is Balkans endangered from a rising Russian influence as senator Chris Murphy said after his week-long visit in the region? Do you think that the shift of U.S. focus from Balkans plays an important role?

DPS: I think there is some risk in specific places in the Balkans like Serbia and Bosnia that Russia will do things that America won’t like, including not agreeing to the extension of EUFOR, encouraging South Stream and helping people in Republika Srpska who say they want to secede from Bosnia. The rest of the Balkans is already inoculated against Moscow’s pathologies. Montenegro, Kosovo, Croatia and Macedonia all know that their future lies in the West.

– How far can Russian involvement in the region go and which are the most important sectors that Russia possibly aims to be involved in Balkans?

DPS:  Energy is really the only commercial sector in which I see Russian economic involvement in the Balkans as a problem, in particular in Serbia. Europe does not want to proceed with South Stream. For Belgrade to do so will I imagine hurt its European prospects.

– Can we expect changes in NATO’s and EU’s policies (acceleration membership process) toward the region in the face of rising Russian influence?

DPS:  So far, NATO has hesitated and the EU has been indifferent, but I think in the future things might change. Russian behavior in Ukraine should make both NATO and the EU move as quickly as possible to make it clear they will expand whenever a state meets the membership criteria and political conditions within the EU and NATO allow expansion. That is already the case for Montenegrin membership in NATO.

– How much important is, in you opinion, the Albanian PM’s visit to Belgrade this month? Are there real chances that this visit to improve bilateral relations?

DPS:  There is no reason for relations between Tirana and Belgrade not to improve. The big problems are behind us. It is time for both capitals to look forward. Both are involved now in the EU accession process, which should give them a lot to talk about.

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