Energy becomes the defining weapon in the Balkan powder keg

The war in Ukraine is a sad reminder that conflicts can break out at any time in Europe, and in the Western Balkans – (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) – the escalation of tension at the end of 2022 is seen as one of the most dangerous events. In the last years. It is an area that has long been considered a powder keg, and today there seem to be plenty of lighters to light the fuse. Let us remember that the First World War originated in the Balkans. In addition, three of the countries of the Western Balkans are NATO, with which it will be involved in a conflict, and Spain, because it also belongs to NATO. Enrique Ayala, analyst at Fundación Alternativas and retired brigadier general, especially since the conflict in the region is an ideal way to destabilize the West under the premise of “divide and rule”, being Europe’s weak point, and as Josep Borrell warned, the battlefield of ideas for Russia. And that maneuver was gaining ground in the region, specifically in Serbia, which is closest to the Kremlin. At the same time, China, the UAE or Turkey are also strengthening ties in the region. While the President of the United States, Joe Biden, signed an order in June punishing those who threaten the stability of the Balkans. For this reason, Brussels has abandoned its “strategic sleepiness” in relation to the Western Balkans and has not stopped circling around energy to maintain political control over the region. International Affairs (SIDOP), “that the European Union in the region is ‘unchallenged’.” While acknowledging its concern about violent protests in northern Kosovo, about the strengthening of the Wagner Group’s presence in Serbia, or about the decision of Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic, to station the country’s army in High alert, in Dec. Amid so many challenges, the EU – which accounts for nearly 70% of the region’s merchandise trade – must be more determined than ever to win against the Balkans.” Related news Ukrainian orphanages: “They dump them like corpses, they stay for life, it’s their fate” Alexia Columba-Jerez For years people have been denouncing what happens behind the walls of these centers in Ukraine, and now Russia is taking thousands of children for systematic illegal adoption. For Bargués, this is combined with attempts to join the European Union, but this is a long and complicated process, “so they are trying with aid packages, during these months, to stop the energy and economic crisis. So that there are no two open fronts. They already have enough with one of Ukraine » Ruth Ferrero, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Balkan Diploma at UCM, explains, “This energy aid package achieves a dual objective, and it is about implementing the EU’s Green Transition Plan in the regions where they are very important. It relies on Russian oil and gas, with consumption of coal and wood as energy sources causing high levels of pollution in the region. This was necessary because the union was a little late and the peoples of the region began to view Brussels as an unreliable partner because the process of enlargement of the European Union had stalled. When asked why ordinary European citizens care about what is happening here, Enrique Ayala, an analyst at Fundación Alternativas and retired Brigadier General, explained that underestimating the Balkans is the same mistake that citizens made at the beginning of the 20th century, “We must remember that the First World War originated in the Balkans In addition, three countries from the Western Balkans currently belong to NATO (Albania, North Macedonia and Montenegro), with which it will be involved in conflict, and Spain, through NATO affiliation, too. To create a connection within the Balkan Peninsula precisely because of this strategic position that connects it to the Middle East through Turkey, but also to the southern Mediterranean, through Greece. It is important to remember that not so long ago some pockets of gas were discovered around the island of Cyprus, which could provide a significant part of European needs. And any transportation to tie all these bags of gas would have to cross the Balkans, and so there are talks of it even becoming a connecting hub in terms of pipeline issues. In addition, the European Commission announced in November that it would assist the Western Balkans with €1 billion. Half of it will be in the form of emergency aid and the rest will be used to upgrade the energy infrastructure in wind and solar energy projects. Jose Angel López, Professor of International Relations and International Law at the Pontifical University of Comillas, draws the panorama that we find in the case of Serbia “energy dependence is not total with Russia, contrary to what has been said and according to the Energy Agency” from this country, consult data on gas and oil imports: 63 % from Iraq, 23% from Russia, 10% from Kazakhstan and 3% from Norway, explains this expert. And renewed for three years and at a low cost gas contract with the Russian company Gazprom. Now Serbia is reluctant to apply sanctions against Moscow, and this poses problems for future EU membership. While Albania, in its data, does not have any oil imports, it is self-sufficient thanks to the Batos Marinza oil field, one of the largest in Europe. It is an energy transit country with the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline (TAP), which runs through Albania, and has hydroelectric power plants, but it is affected by water scarcity. “Kosovo, because of the ties it has with Albania, also has stocks of these resources. Macedonia is largely self-sufficient, and the oil it gets is refined internally. In addition, a gas pipeline linking Greece with North Macedonia is being built. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Since the beginning of 2021, Gazprom has been supplying natural gas to Serbia and Bosnia through the TurkStream gas pipeline, with a route coming from Turkey and Bulgaria,” Lopez details. Stability and corruption qualifies Ayala “The process initiated by Berlin in 2014 to facilitate the integration of these countries into the European Union continues. The most problematic cases are that of Bosnia and Herzegovina because of its internal politics. Serbia, because it is allied with Russia, and Kosovo, which is far from the European Union because its independence Serbia is not recognized by all European countries, including Spain.In addition, Bosnia has problems with Republika Srpska, the Serb-majority part of Bosnia, which threatens secession.And Kosovo also has a large Serb population in the region. border with Serbia, where there were blockades and disputes. The EU’s slowness calls into question Brussels’ transformative capacity, and Ferrero establishes that “what can be read in the EU is that they don’t know very well how to manage the continent’s unity. Even more troubling is how to integrate countries that could cause so much trouble into the union project.” And “stable regimes” prevailed. Thus, in the Western Balkans, local politicians and economists became comfortable continuing to receive money from the EU in order to stabilize the region and not create problems. In turn, the EU looked the other way at democratic setbacks. The Bear and the Dragon Challenge The big one is Serbia, which plays on both sides, with the approaches of the European Union, but without losing privileges in its relations with Moscow, such as importing gas and oil at more competitive prices. Paul Barges points out that sources in Brussels fear that “Serbia will be a Trojan horse if it enters the union.” European Union because of its relations with Russia and its economic elites. But others believe that with entry into the European Union, this Russian connection will decrease. Added to this – as Professor Lopez recalls – is that Serbia is an observer member of the so-called Russian NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a collective defense organization led by Russia. In addition, Moscow broadcasts disinformation on Russia’s Sputnik channel in Serbia, Montenegro, Republika Srpska, and northern Kosovo. It encourages nationalist sentiments and supplies arms to Serbia. Also of concern is the presence of the Wagner Group, which has announced that it has opened a branch in Serbia to take care of the Russians in the country. “The door to China has also been opened. In the epidemic, they immediately provided medical supplies and medical personnel. The European Union later allocated billions for the health crisis, but the Serbian president called European solidarity a “fairy tale that exists only on paper.” In addition, Ferrero points out that “some large public tenders in Serbia, Albania and Macedonia are being promoted by Chinese companies camouflaged by local companies”. “Open Balkans”, “mini-Schengen”, led by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, followed by North Macedonia and Albania. It aims to facilitate trade operations between these countries with free movement of people, capital and services. Barges describes that “the European Union is suspicious because this will lead to a repetition of agreements , and it will not serve as a supplement.” More information Putin’s other nuclear speech, in which he questions his global energy impact, “might cause an even bigger crisis” Science fiction writers attract ideas from companies and governments that power machines and become scripts To unravel the secrets of the iron brain, air, wood and sand.. technology illuminates new alternatives to lithium batteries The great challenge facing the European Union is persuasion and energy diplomacy is one way. As Borrell says “the European Union is not complete without the Balkans”, and miscalculation is the greatest threat.

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