EU plans to ban visas for Balkan extremists stoked by Moscow

EU states are in talks over possible visa bans for right-wing extremists in the Western Balkans, amid fears that Russian propaganda is raising new threats.

The confidential talks, which will take place on Thursday July 14 within an EU Council counter-terrorism cell, will include “a discussion on the effectiveness of bans on certain extremist subjects in Western Balkan countries”, according to an internal memo. of the EU.

“Many far-right movements in the Western Balkans have a strong aversion to NATO and the European Union,” reads the memo, written by the incoming Czech EU Presidency and seen by EUobserver.

“One of the reasons for the growing distrust of the West is the strong relationship that Russia has forged with the Orthodox Christian populations of the region. Russia presents itself as the protector of certain nations in particular, but also of Christian groups Western Balkan Orthodox,” it said.

In the past, EU concerns centered on foreign jihadist fighters returning to the region from the Middle East.

But the war in Ukraine has seen “some local left-wing supporters fighting in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, most likely on the Russian side,” the Czech memo says.

He painted a complex picture of the problem, which involves “radical football fans or radical followers of various pan-Slavic and nationalist movements”.

“It is often very difficult to tell the difference between the extreme right and the extreme left in the Western Balkans,” the memo reads.

Some groups, such as Blood and Honor and Combat 18, which target migrants and foreigners in general, are also “still active”.

And taken together, they create a “growing threat to the region” as well as to EU internal security.

“Have you noticed any links in some EU member states between ‘local’ right-wing extremists and the Western Balkan far-right? asked the Czech Presidency to the other Member States.

“Are there signs of growing influence of far-right organizations from the Western Balkans on the Balkan diaspora in the Member States? “, he added.

The memo says jihadists still pose the greatest threat in terms of large-scale loss of life.

But he stressed that “ethno-nationalist” attacks, even if on a smaller scale, risked deepening political instability in a region that not so long ago was struggling with a series bloody ethnic conflicts.

“The threat of large-scale terrorist attacks inspired by VRWE [violent right-wing extremist] ideologies is arguably quite weak,” two experts from Rusi, a London-based think tank, said in a recent study cited by the Czechs in their memo.

“However, even small-scale acts of violence could be the starting point for regional destabilization,” the Rusi study warned.


Fr

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