Former Foreign Minister of Kosovo, Enver Hoxhaj, in an interview for The Geopost, emphasized that the countries of the European Union continue to behave naively about Russian influence in the Balkans.
According to Hoxhaj, some of the members of the United Nations Mission (UNMIK) are following the Russian agenda in the north of Kosovo.
“I think that the war in Ukraine has opened Europe’s eyes, but it has not been followed by decision-making in relation to the Balkans. The European Union is still behaving in a naive way as it sees the Russian role and influence in the Balkans and beyond the region,” Hoxhaj said.
He adds that Serbia and Russia have a traditional historical alliance in the Balkans against the Albanian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin and Macedonian factors.
“Serbia and Russia have a traditional historical alliance in the Balkans against the Albanian, Croat, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Macedonian factors, and here the Serbs and Russians do not distinguish in the last 200 years, they do not distinguish even in the last 20 years, and of course this historical alliance the Russian-Serbian strategic partnership has also been added, and all the actions taken so far by Russian policy in relation to the Balkans have been thought out and coordinated,” he adds.
Speaking about the latest agreement between Belgrade and Moscow, Hoxhaj says that this is a continuation of Serbian policy in relation to the Balkans, Europe and Kosovo.
“The agreement is a continuation of Serbian policy in relation to the Balkans, in relation to Europe and Kosovo, since Serbia has a strategic partnership since May 24, 2013, and every year they sign an agreement for diplomatic consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and they are action plans”, says Hoxhaj.
In this interview, former chief diplomat Hoxhaj also spoke about the hybrid war and Serbian-Russian propaganda in the Balkans.
The Geopost: Days ago, Belgrade and Moscow signed an agreement on deepening foreign policy cooperation between the two countries, what does this mean for Serbia, especially for the region?
The agreement is a continuation of Serbian policy in relation to the Balkans, in relation to Europe and in relation to Kosovo. Since Serbia has had a strategic partnership since May 24, 2013, and every year they sign agreements for diplomatic consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, and there are action plans, and I know that the action plans they signed in 2017 and 2018 have had a direct and negative effect in relation to Kosovo, as some of the countries that have withdrawn recognition have done so as a result of this cooperation.
I saw the text of the agreement, and the text of the agreement basically dealt with Kosovo and it is an agreement against Kosovo and against Ukraine. And this happened at a time when Russia has a complete international isolation, there are international sanctions, when Serbia is also isolated, and in my view, it is not surprising that Serbia has been and will continue to be an extension of Putin and Russia as platform against the West and against Kosovo.
But I am concerned about the weak reaction of the Westerners, especially of the European Union and the lack of will to put the option on the table for Serbia, are they interested in joining the European Union or are they interested in being an extension of Russia. I expect that the European Union will start and should start the procedure of suspending the process of membership of Serbia in the European Union. Only this is the right answer at a time when war is happening in Europe and when Russian fascism is overturning the international order.
The Geopost: You mentioned the weak reaction in Europe, how do you see the growth of the extreme right in Europe and where does Europe stand between Russia and this aggression, does Europe have the capacity to resist more?
I have followed the topic of Russia for a long time, due to my professional preparation but also due to the fact that in 2006 and 2007 I was part of the negotiations in Vienna within the framework of the Ahtisaari process, and at that time I saw that the Russian position in relation to Europe and Kosovo is not a misunderstanding, it is a structured position. But later I saw as the foreign minister of Kosovo, that in fact the Europeans had a wrong assessment of what Russia is, what Russia wants in relation to Europe, how much they intervened in the Balkans and how Russia is preparing to be a strategic opponents of the West.
I am convinced that the war in Ukraine has opened the eyes of Europe and the West in relation to what Russia is today, but I am very disappointed with the lack of decision-making in Brussels in relation to the Balkans. This also applies to the lack of decisions within NATO. I have thought that the war in Ukraine will open the perspective of Kosovo’s membership in NATO, it will open the perspective of Bosnia’s membership in NATO since the problems that are in the Balkans are not only a consequence of the war in Ukraine, but are topics of peace uncompleted and in these the conflict can return if there is no structure, umbrella of security. And in this regard, I think that the war in Ukraine has opened the eyes of Europe, but it has not been accompanied by decision-making in relation to the Balkans.
The European Union is still behaving naively in how it sees the Russian role and influence in the Balkans and beyond.
The Geopost: Russian influence in the Balkans is mostly characterized by using Serbia to make implications in countries such as Montenegro, Bosnia and specifically in Kosovo, we have the last case in the North of Kosovo when some barricades were erected, how do you see this and what is danger for Kosovo and the region?
I think that Serbia and Russia have a traditional historical alliance in the Balkans against the Albanian factor, against the Croatian factor, against the Bosnian, Montenegrin, Macedonian factor, and here the Serbs and Russians do not distinguish in the last 200 years, they do not distinguish even in the last 20 years, and Of course, the Russian-Serbian strategic partnership has been added to this historical alliance, and all the actions taken so far by Russian policy in relation to the Balkans have been thought out and coordinated, whether investments in the economy in Serbia or cooperation with different political parties, be it the dependence on gas, be it the construction of the intelligence center in Nis, be it the financing of some members of parallel structures in the north of the country who serve not only Serbia but also Russia and who, not only do Serbian propaganda, but also Russian propaganda.
And the best evidence is the attempt to assassinate President Djukanovic when it is known that some members of the Serbs in the north of Kosovo were part of this well-coordinated action to kill President Djukanovic and block Montenegro’s membership in NATO. And it was also seen in the last tense situation in the north of Kosovo in July, when all the rumors, all the oral propaganda, the perception that there could be “allegedly” an attack from Pristina, from Kosovo in the north, were propaganda which we have seen it everywhere in Eastern Europe, in Crimea, in Donbas, in Abkhazia, in Ossetia, in Africa promoted by the Wagner group.
So they are the same frameworks, they are the same structures and they are the same people who exercise factual influence or influence in terms of worldview in the north of the country.
The Geopost: As Foreign Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, where did you have the biggest confrontation with Russia, in the UN or in other organizations?
Russia has used international organizations every time to fight Kosovo, which has basically been a war against the West, Kosovo has only been used as a topic to compare the West in relation to Kosovo, but also in relation to the subjects, and they have done this of course also in the UN Security Council, where often the Russian position that was stated there, not only was stated in the UN Security Council and conveyed to the UN member states, but such messages, such discourse , we have seen such worldviews everywhere in countries around the globe, in the smallest possible countries in Asia, Africa or Latin America.
They were able to take the same view on Kosovo, what Lavrov, Vitaly Churkin or others have said at the UN. In addition to the UN, they have also used the OSCE to attack Kosovo, and the OSCE has often served the interests of Russia in the Balkans, whose members have been close to this organization.
UNMIK in Kosovo had members who followed the Russian agenda in the north of the country or in Pristina, as they used the Council of Europe. And the very motion for a resolution in the general assembly of the Council of Europe, in the parliamentary assembly of the EC to launch a report to ascertain the claims of Dick Marty, is from Konstantin Kosachev, who has been a deputy of the Russian Duma and who, besides being a deputy, as it turns out now, but we knew at that time, he was also a man of the Russian GRU service.
Therefore, organizations have also been used, but the concern I have is that these organizations are still being used to this day. That is why I am in favor of the fact that the UN should exclude Russia from the Security Council, because it is Russia that has violated the UN charter by violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine with tanks, it should be excluded from the OSCE.
And I do not say this to raise the flag of triumph and the flag of a radical language, but I think that what is happening after February 2022 is a new phase of confrontation, and the West is wrong if they think that Putin has given up his ambitions to create a Russian empire, at any price, in any form, he will use all instruments, in Eastern Europe the classic invasion, in the Balkans the hybrid war and often organizations are the best platforms to exercise the hybrid war, that’s why I am also of the opinion that Russia should be isolated internationally and excluded from some organizations.
The Geopost: What message do you have for the Balkan countries, what do you suggest to counter the propaganda, influence and hybrid war that is happening in the Balkans?
I think that the countries of the Balkans, first of all, should have full, great and sincere coordination with our American partners, because it is only the Americans who have institutions, have resources, have a global reading of what is happening in the world, and they then see this mosaic of the Balkans as part of this world game, how we should behave in relation to Russia.
I think that here the government of the Republic of Kosovo also needs frequent daily coordination for everything, because even when we are talking now, of course some hybrid action will happen somewhere in the Balkans or even in Kosovo.
Secondly, it is Russia’s attempt to fragment the Balkans, to divide the Balkans into states that are pro-Western, such as Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, and into states that should be pro-Russia, such as Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. Bosnia in part, Montenegro also in part. And I think that the political elite does not dare to allow an internal division of the Balkans to happen.
And thirdly, there must be complete clarity that the process of enlargement in the European Union is a concrete project. I don’t think that the European Union has a role in Africa, has a role in Asia, has a role in Latin America, if it is not able to integrate its inner courtyard into the European Union, and the approach of Paris and the approaches of others by inventing and re-invent topics of the European political community as if it were the time of the seminars, at a time when war is happening. And I think that for Kosovo, it is vital that our American partners and our Western European partners help us join NATO.
Only NATO is a parameter for permanent peace in Kosovo, the lack of membership of Kosovo in NATO is a premise for the return of tensions and the return of the conflict.
While it is up to Serbia to decide whether it will join NATO or remain military and politically neutral. But the way to stop the policy of Russian imperialism in the Balkans is the membership of Kosovo and Bosnia in NATO, and this would put a stop to the hegemonic tendencies of Serbia which have recently returned to the Balkans. /The Geopost/