On June 20 Serbia’s foreign minister Ivica Dacic made an interesting remark in connection with the ongoing political and territorial dispute over the status of Kosovo. We are witnessing a new reflection of the desire to create the “green transverse” in the Balkans, which is a “dangerous fantasy” motivated by ambitious Islamic extremism. “This is nothing new,” Dacic went on, “this is an aspiration which has been present for centuries.
The Green Transverse (aka “Green Corridor,” Zelena transverzala, Grüne Transversale, Dorsale verde) is a key geopolitical concept which denotes the long-term goal of Islamist activists, both in the Balkans and in the wider Muslim world, to create a geographically contiguous chain of majority-Muslim or Muslim-dominated polities that will extend from Turkey in the southeast to the northwestern-most point of Bosnia (a mere hundred miles as the crow flies from Austria’s southeastern border). Over the past quarter-century it has resulted in the strengthening of traditionally Muslim communities in the Balkans, expanding the geographic area of their demographic dominance and enhancing their Islamic character.
Political, cultural, religious and demographic trends among Muslim communities in the Balkans demonstrate that the Green Corridor is taking shape, either deliberately or spontaneously. Nevertheless, many Western academic experts and media commentators have been dismissive of any suggestion that a long-term Islamic geopolitical design exists in the Balkans, let alone that it is being deliberately and systematically pursued. Yet far from being a paranoid concept with “Islamophobic” overtones, its most authoritative analysts have been institutions and experts with no ethnic or confessional axe to grind in the Balkan scene.
During the Bosnian war in the 1990’s the late Sir Alfred Sherman, former advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and co-founder of The Lord Byron Foundation, warned that the Muslims’ objective was “to create a ‘Green Corridor’ from Bosnia through the Sanjak to Kosovo.” Western powers are “in effect fostering this Islamistan,” Sherman warned, while “Washington is actively helping the Muslim forces.”
A decade later, the same theme was echoed by Col. Shaul Shay of BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University. Writing in 2008, he noted that “the Balkans serve as a forefront on European soil for Islamic terror organizations, which exploit this area to promote their activities in Western Europe, and other focal points worldwide.” His verdict regarding the Green Corridor is disquieting: “The establishment of an independent Islamic territory including Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania . . . is one of the most prominent achievements of Islam since the siege of Vienna in 1683. Islamic penetration into Europe through the Balkans is one of the main achievements of Islam in the twentieth century.”
John Schindler, former professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and National Security Agency analyst, concurs. Writing in 2008, he pointed out that the Balkans provide the missing piece in the puzzle of al-Qa’ida’s transformation from an isolated fighting force into a lethal global threat. Radical Islam played a key role in the Yugoslav conflict, Schindler says: like Afghanistan in the 1980s, Bosnia in the 1990s became a training ground for the mujahidin, leading to blowback of epic proportions. “Jihadist Networks in the Balkans” was also the theme of the October 2008 issue of the prominent Italian geopolitical review Limes, and the subject was revisited in February of this year. Overall, the Green Corridor reflects precisely Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations; he treated the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a paradigmatic case of the “fault-line wars” between Islam and the rest.
The trouble with the Serbian foreign minister’s statement is that the Green Transverse is not and cannot be described as “fantasy.” Quite the contrary, its long-term objectives are currently fueled by a new wave of overwhelmingly Muslim migrants from the Greater Middle East and by the manifest desire of the European Union—especially Germany—to resettle them along the Union’s southeastern borders, which effectively means in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the Viennese daily Die Presse (June 14), Serbia will also be the destination of those asylum seekers whose applications are rejected in the EU and who are subsequently deported. That Serbia whould become the “end station” for migrants has been a constant theme of the German-language media for over a year.
The problem is that 11 years ago the government of Serbia signed a readmission treaty with the European Union, which states that migrants whose asylum applications are rejected in the Union will be sent to “the last safe country” on their journey in which they were registered—which is Serbia. This was a grossly irresponsible act of treason by the pro-EU quasi-elite in Belgrade. It is now clear that various Eurocrats in Brussels intend to turn the country into a giant depository for unwanted migrants, instead of sending them back to their countries of origin. The European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Berto thus declared back in September 2015 that since the EU has a readmission agreement with Serbia, persons arriving in the EU without the right to remain there would be sent back to the last pre-EU country of transit. In 2016, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks reiterated the intention of EU member states to send unsuccessful asylum seekers to Serbia.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina the situation is further complicated by the desire of the Muslim leaders in this tri-national quasistate to facilitate the influx and permanent settlement of their coreligionists from the Middle East and North Africa. They hope to change the ethnic and confessional balance in their favor and to the detriment of Serbs and Croats, who between them still have a simple majority in the chronically unstable former Yugoslav republic. For the Sarajevo government’s minister for human rights Semiha Borovac, a Muslim, the only issue is not how to protect borders, but how to help migrants “in accordance with the EU Action Plan.” Her attitude is perfectly in line with the position of the Bosnian Muslims’ wartime leader Alija Izetbegovic that “Islam contains the principle of ummet, the tendency to unite all Muslims into a single community—a spiritual, cultural and political community . . . It is a natural function of the Islamic order to gather all Muslims and Muslim communities throughout the world into one.”
At the same time, the Christian communities all over the Balkans are in a steep, long-term demographic decline. Fertility rate is below replacement level in every majority-Christian country in the region. The Muslims, by contrast, have the highest birth rates in Europe, with the Albanians topping the chart. On current form it is likely that Muslims will reach a simple majority, both in Bosnia and in the Balkans as a whole, within a decade at most.
Quite apart from the devastating effect on the declining Christian communities in the Balkans, this process also has major security implications for the Western world. Already two decades ago a classified State Department report warned that the Muslim-controlled parts of Bosnia had become a safe haven for Islamic terrorism. The core of Bin Laden’s Balkan network consisted of the veterans of El Moujahed brigade of the Bosnian-Muslim army from the 1990’s, distinguished by their spectacular cruelty. They went on to perpetrate murder and mayhem all over the world. They planned the Millennium Plot, the bombing of the Al Khobar building in Riyadh, and attacks on U.S. military installations in Germany. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who planned the 9/11 attacks, was a veteran of the Bosnian jihad, as were two of the hijackers. As Jane’s Intelligence Review concluded in 2006, “The current threat of terrorism in Bosnia and Herzegovina comes from a younger, post-war generation of militant Islamists, radicalized by US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
There is a growing gap between the reality of Islam in the Balkans and Western mainstream narrative about the allegedly moderate and tolerant “Balkan Islam.” The problem of the Green Corridor will not be resolved without critical reexamination of Western policies as well as Western illusions. That problem has morphed over the past quarter-century into a demographic, social and political reality. As Professor Raphael Israeli warned over a decade ago, “[W]hile the Muslims have established a continuity which drives a wedge within Christian Central Europe, the West is looking with indifference at that evolving situation which they hope will create a docile, Turkish-like Islam . . . It is doubtful whether these hopes will be fulfilled.”
Western policies in Southeast Europe have had the effect, either by design or by default, to favor the aspirations of various supposedly pro-Western Muslim communities in the Balkans along the geographic line extending from Turkey north-westwards towards Central Europe. In Washington, that policy was based to a large extent on the expectation that satisfying Islamists’ ambitions in a secondary theater would improve the U.S. standing in the Muslim world as a whole.
The policy had never yielded any dividends, but repeated failure has only prompted its advocates to redouble their efforts. Former U.S. Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns thus declared on February 18, 2008, a day after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence: “Kosovo is going to be a vastly majority Muslim state, given the fact that 92 to 94 percent of their population is Muslim, and we think it is a very positive step that this Muslim state, Muslim majority state, has been created today.” If it is intrinsically “a very positive step” for the U.S. that a “vastly Muslim state” is created on European soil that had been cleansed of non-Muslims with American assistance, then it should be expected that Washington will be equally supportive of any new Islamistan in the Green Corridor-affected area.
Far from providing a model of pro-Western “moderate Islam,” majority-Muslim areas of the Balkans have become the breeding ground for thousands of young, fanatical Islamists. Their dedication is honed in thousands of foreign-financed mosques and Islamic centers. If Western policy in the Balkans was not meant to facilitate the Green Corridor, it needs to be explained why its effects have coincided with the objectives of those same Islamists who threaten Western interests, and—in Europe—the very survival of traditionally Christian nations. They will have to foot the immediate bill for such folly and malice, and it has been paid already by Kosovo’s disappearing Serbs; but long-term costs of the expansion of the Green Corridor will haunt both America and Europe for decades to come.
[Image: By Chatham House (Ivica Dacic, Prime Minister of Serbia) [CC BY 2.0]]