Balkans Bristles Under Turkey’s Gaze

Analysis by Vesna Peric Zimonjic

BELGRADE, Jul 24 2012 (IPS) - In the decade following the break-up of Yugoslavia, it was rare for a statement made by a foreign politician to stir heated debate in the Eastern European bloc.

Since 2001, the independent nations of former Yugoslavia have been focused on rebuilding their economies from the rubble of simultaneous and protracted conflicts throughout the region and geopolitics have largely been confined to the slow process of reconciliation among neighbouring states.

But the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s proclamation last week that Bosnia-Herzegovina is now in the “care” of his country generated much public controversy in the Balkan states of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina is entrusted to us,” Erdogan told a meeting of the provincial heads of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara last week.

He recalled a statement made by the former Alija Izetbegovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first president, when Erdogan visited him on his deathbed in 2003. “He (Izetbegovic) whispered in my ear these phrases: ‘Bosnia (and Herzegovina) is entrusted to you (Turkey). These places are what remain of the Ottoman Empire’,” he said.

Izetbegovic, who led Bosnia into the war of independence in 1992 and subsequently became the country’s first president, died of a heart disease in 2003.

The thought of being passed off as a ‘trust’ to any country is enough to spark intense opposition but the statement is made worse by the fact that Bosnia is home to a highly diverse population comprising various ethno-religious communities including Bosniak Muslims, Catholic Bosnian Croats and Orthodox Serbs as well.

The latter two groups make up more than half of Bosnia’s population of four million. For them, the 500 years of Turkish-Ottoman rule that ended only with the collapse of the empire at the end of World War I are remembered almost exclusively as a period of severe oppression.

Bosnian Serb politicians were quick to voice their anger over the statement.

“Bosnia-Herzegovina is not a land to be inherited,” Igor Radojicic, a spokesman for the Bosnian Serb Parliament stressed, while Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic told local media he doubted that “Izetbegovic could be so powerful as to believe he has a country to give (away) as a trust.”

The controversy quickly went viral online, with websites in the region becoming the battlegrounds for a war of words between various ethnic groups.

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If anyone had any doubt about the cause of troubles in relations between two neighboring countries - Syria and Turkey, there it is.
This maniac does not operate just in the middle east. He does his thing wherever he can.
To say it in everyday language: it's not me, it's you.
What might scare a man is thought about the number of people standing behind his views. And ways. What one says, many others think. How many of them are in Turkish government?