The flexion of muscles by Serbian officials is causing concern in neighboring states.
Serbia has launched a new national holiday with a display of military force and an appeal to all Serbs in the Balkans to unite under one flag, which has caused unrest among its neighbors for decades after similar calls for bloody wars in the 1990s.
The Serbs were told to display thousands of red, blue and white national flags on Wednesday, whether they live in the region or in the world, as ‘The Day of Serb Unity, Freedom and the National Flag’.
On the day of the celebrations, the populist president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, investigated military hardware that appeared in a park in Belgrade, praising the army’s readiness to respond to outside threats.
He said the army was “five times stronger” than it was a few years ago and announced new military purchases.
The flexion of muscles by Serbian officials, as well as their calls for the establishment of the ‘Serbian world’, or political unification of an estimated 1.3 million Serbs living in Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Croatia with Serbia, has caused concern neighboring states.
In the 1990s, with financial and political support from Belgrade, Serbian forces led bloody campaigns in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo with the aim of forming a ‘Greater Serbia’. The campaign tried in vain to draw the inner borders of the former Yugoslavia and create a single Serbian state.
The renewed calls for pan-Serbian unity further increased tensions in the Balkans.
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said he could not believe Serbs had anything more important or smarter to do than create holidays that would intrude on the domestic affairs of neighboring states.
Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, the strongest supporter of the “Serbian world”, reacted quickly.
“There is nothing more important than preserving the Serbian identity,” he said.
The new national holiday coincides with the day when the royal Serbian army, along with French troops, defeated the forces of the central forces in a famous battle of the First World War in northern Greece in 1918.