Western Balkans Summit in Berlin (April 29)
Exchange of territory will lead to new conflicts (Press Release)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is concerned that the Western Balkans Summit next Monday in Berlin will be on an exchange of territory between Serbia and Kosovo. The human rights organization clearly warned against border changes without consent of the affected minorities: "Dreams of creating 'homogeneous populations' will lead to new conflicts and cause people to leave their homes," warned Jan Diedrichsen, the STP's Federal Chairman. "Instead, both sides must show commitment to protect the minority groups in their settlement areas – and they must be granted autonomy rights." In addition, the Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina or the Albanian minority in Macedonia might be encouraged to declare independence if there were a border shift in Kosovo. This would create a cascade of new ethnic conflicts in the region.
"The minorities in the Western Balkans were the main victims in the wars of the 1990s," recalled Jasna Causevic, the STP's Expert on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. "It is a serious mistake to exclude them from the multilateral negotiations." In order to create lasting peace, all affected ethnic groups will have to be involved in decisions about their future. At the same time, all the peoples of the Western Balkans and Croatia must show effort to come to terms with the past. "It is necessary to be honest about the war crimes of the past – in the schools and in public debates. It would be necessary to make the denial of the genocide in Srebrenica a punishable act, just like the denial of the Holocaust is in Germany," Causevic emphasized.
The Western Balkans Summit – initiated by the French President and the German Chancellor – will take place on Monday, independently of the so-called Berlin Process. The next time the situation in the Western Balkans will be discussed in this larger format, which has been running since 2011, will be in Posen (Poland) on July 5.
Headerimage: William John Gauthier via Flickr.