The Balkan Question

KEY ISSUES BEHIND THE WAR EXPLAINED
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The Independent Online
Have Greece and Serbia always been allies?

GREEKS AND Serbs won their freedom from the Ottoman empire in the early 19th century and the territorial ambitions of these two Orthodox Christian nations have usually dove-tailed since.

In the first Balkan war of 1912 they fought together and gained a lot of territory from Turkey. In 1913 they attacked Bulgaria, which brought them both more land. Greece and Serbia were the winners in the Balkans in 1918, after fighting together on the Allied side in the First World War. In the Nineties, Greece has looked on with suspicion and distress as its old ally has been stripped of its territorial gains. Athens has opposed the secession from Yugoslavia of Croatia, Bosnia and now Kosovo.

Like Serbs, the Greeks are strongly anti-Muslim, seeing the hand of their old Turkish enemy among the Muslim Bosnians and Albanians. Greeks also fear any change of borders in the Balkans will stimulate agitation in eastern Thrace, which borders Turkey and has a big Turkish minority, and strengthen the Turkish statelet in Cyprus.

Greece has invested heavily in the privatised industries of bankrupt Serbia and is furious that Nato jets are bombing their new concerns.

Marcus Tanner

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