Turning a new Balkan page

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s official visit to Yugoslavia reflects Athens’s intention to turn a new page in its relations with Belgrade. Until 1990, bilateral ties were characterized by an underlying antagonism. During the government of former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, Greek foreign policy displayed a clear pro-Serbian bias, but after 1993 PASOK tried to bring a more balanced approach to the Balkans. This turn proved disquieting for the Milosevic regime. The former Yugoslav strongman expressed his dissatisfaction in crude fashion, despite the Greek public’s support for the Serbs. Still, Greece continued to be Serbia’s strongest advocate inside the Western framework, even after NATO began its air strikes against Yugoslavia. Yugoslav officials were pleased to hear Simitis reiterating Greece’s support in Yugoslavia’s effort to join the Euro-Atlantic structures. However, they expressed their disappointment over Greece’s delay in providing a pledged economic package of 235 million euros. Ethnic conflicts may have ceased, but it would be premature to rule out a future crisis. The conflicts of the previous decade were caused by the attempt of the ethnic groups that constituted the former Yugoslavia to carve up its territory. The crises in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) were ignited by the separatist aspirations of ethnic Albanians in the former Yugoslavia. Following the union deal between Serbia and Montenegro, three key issues in the region still remain unresolved. The coexistence of Slav-Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in FYROM is fragile. Kosovo is an international protectorate but it is also a part of Yugoslavia. On all three fronts, peace is sustained via outside military force. It remains to be seen how long this shaky equilibrium can be maintained.

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