A professor at the Graz University, Florian Bieber, said one should be careful when talking about violent extremism in the Western Balkans and how it was moving away from focusing on Islam to radical nationalism. At the11th Belgrade Security Forum (BFPE) panel, Bieber warned that when violent extremism was involved, the focus was always on Islamic communities, foreign fighters and the radicalization of Islam, but in the Western Balkans, that was not so much of a problem. Addressing the Forum via a video link, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar said that „many look at the Western Balkans through the prism of the 1990s, while Washington does so through the prism of the 21st century.”
„These are European countries, some of which have made huge progress, and their accession to the EU would not pose a danger to existing members of the Union, but a great opportunity”, Escobar added. Bieber, however, warned about „different concepts that can be associated with violent extremism”, citing extreme nationalism as an example. He mentioned the example from Belgrade when the abusive messages and threats were written at the non-governmental organization Women in Black premises entrance. According to him, strong state institutions should play a key role in resisting such phenomena.
In the region, Bieber added, there were cases of institutions flirting with such phenomena of extreme nationalism, gaining the support of political players and groups, and with religious elements. „They flirt with such groups, they absorb them, instead of pacifying them”, Bieber warned.
The three-day Forum is jointly organized by the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) Foundation for Responsible Society, the Belgrade Center for Security Policy and the European Movement in Serbia.