PRO-WESTERN DETERMINATION AND THE EAST SEDUCTION
The very orientation of ethnic Albanians to the West does not create a basis for significant influence from Russia, China, Iran or the Persian Gulf countries. This orientation was sealed today 111 years ago, when at the Congress in Manastir, Albanians were declared for the Latin alphabet. No attempt by the East has failed to divert this orientation.
Author: Xhelal NEZIRI
The fall of the communist regime is the biggest event of the 20th century and an equally great victory of man over oppression by the system. This moment should serve as a lesson for all politicians that the undemocratic systems cannot be long lasting as they relate to the cult of the individual.
They are also unsustainable because they do not provide freedom, equality, dignity, standard of living and a bright perspective. If we take the states that had the communist system as a model of Government, they all collapsed in the 90’s of the last century.
Social serenity was only guaranteed by leaders like Stalin, Tito, Hoxha, Caushesku and so on. With their deaths, the system raised upon authority ended, leaving behind wars and revolutions.
Even though Czechoslovakia at that time was an example of economic development within the Eastern Bloc leaded by Soviet Union, and this was the merit of being part of the German federation before World War II, yet its economy was significantly poorer than Western European countries. The economy collapsed entirely after the revolution because of corruption and organized crime.
The question that arises today, three decades later, is, what did these countries benefit from leaving the former Soviet bloc?
Today, the Czech Republic is a member of the EU and NATO, with a developed and growing economy in Europe, with only 5.9 percent unemployment and a functioning democracy. That is to say, they benefited greatly from leaving the former Soviet bloc. They have gained a new life, where human freedom and dignity are in the first place, not the leader’s cult.
Efforts of influence of major powers have been present in various forms in Europe and the Balkans and will continue to be in the future.
It is the smaller states that must act wisely and with a vision when it comes to their strategic orientations. Not only Czechoslovakia, but also other Central European countries such as Poland and Hungary, are aware that only linking to the West can provide them with sustainable progress and peace.
This is not to say that they should be enemies with the East, in this concrete case Russia or China, but the protection of Western values, which focus on man, is sacred to them. People in Central European countries have felt in their skin the severity of the communist regime.
Russia has a strategic interest in accessing the Mediterranean waters, or as they call them “warm waters.” For this reason, in previous years we had a large presence of Russian capital in Montenegro, in Cyprus and a strong military presence in Syria.
All three of these countries with access to the Mediterranean are a target on Russia’s map to retain high influence on decision-making with a view to operating in the Mediterranean. The Balkans became a region of great strategic interest to Russia especially after 2013, when the construction of the “South Stream” pipeline began. The gas pipelines were planned to start from Russia, cross the Black Sea, continue to Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia and enter the EU.
This would remove Ukraine from the gas supply map and thus make it an irrelevant place in Europe’s supply with Russian gas. The rejection of Bulgaria and then of North Macedonia caused the line of the pipeline to change and cross the Black Sea and ascend to the European part of Turkey. The pipeline is expected to start operating in December this year and is expected to pass through Europe via Bulgaria.
The fear, especially of Washington, is that Europe’s dependence on Russian energy could make these states dependent and vulnerable to Russian political influence. On the other hand, Russia uses gas as a successful tool to influence the domestic policies of the countries it supplies.
Russia in the Balkan countries exploits more with its cultural (linguistic) and religious proximity to Orthodox people than does anything concrete to increase its influence. In Montenegro alone, Russian investments account for 30 percent of GDP, while in Serbia they are only 10 percent.
Based on investment and trade, Russia is almost in the bottom of Serbia’s top 10 trading partners. The EU, in particular Germany, is far ahead of Russia as the partner on which the Serbian economy depends. In addition, Gazprom sells a cube of gas in Serbia at a price more expensive by 10 percent than in other countries.
Even Serbia knows that Russia is not an alternative, but uses its closeness to Moscow as a means of securing a more favorable position in its relations with the West. Russia’s arming that Russia gives to Serbia is outdated and unprofitable for this country.
In this way, this arming cannot create any imbalance of forces in the Balkans because Montenegro, Croatia and Albania are part of NATO, with North Macedonia who is expected to be promoted as the 30th member of the Alliance early next year, while NATO is stationed in Kosovo.
Russia has a large and attractive market for the economies of other countries. Together with Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan they form the Eurasian Union of 180 million people.
But on the other hand, the EU market has a population of 512 million and provides greater opportunities for products not only in the Balkans but also in other countries.
Although it has close relations with Russia, Turkey has not responded positively to the invitation to join the Eurasian Union for this very reason. Serbia’s inclusion in this Union does not mean that the country has given up on the EU.
As I said above, the Serbian economy depends on the ties with European countries, not Russia. In politics, interests always come first, not emotions.
Russia’s presence in Albania, Kosovo and Albanians in general is almost irrelevant.
Its influence in Kosovo is achieved only through its presence in the northern part of the country. In 2016 Russia has marked investments of only 2 million euros in Kosovo, while exporting goods worth only of 7 million euros. The very orientation of ethnic Albanians to the West does not create a basis for significant influence from Russia, China, Iran or the Persian Gulf countries. This orientation was sealed today 111 years ago, when at the Congress in Manastir Albanians were declared for the Latin alphabet. No attempt by the East has failed to divert this orientation. / KPD