"I am very concerned about the situation in the Western Balkans, not least the clear Russian influence and the increasing pressure from radical Muslim communities," Børge Brende told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten during the Oslo Forum, which is dedicated to discussing conflicts.
In Kosovo's recent election, a highly nationalist party led by former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army Ramush Haradinaj, who is still regarded as a war criminal in Serbia despite being acquitted or war crimes in the Hague, gained ground. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, friction between Bosnians and Serbs are increasing, as is antagonism between Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia. Moreover, Montenegro recently became NATO's 29th member despite fierce popular opposition and violent protests, which Oslo partly ascribed to "Russia's influence," as did Brussels.
"I am concerned that conflicts in the Western Balkans are developing by proxy. However, I am most worried about the development in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the conflict between Bosnians and Serbs has been exacerbated," Brende said, venturing that Serbs might eventually establish their own republic, challenge the country's leadership and aggravate the discord in the Balkans.
Apart from brewing ethnic strife, the region is plagued by a poor economy and social problems.
"In some countries like Kosovo, youth unemployment is up to 50 percent. Poverty is rampant, and it is not strange that frictions are increasing. We are also witnessing a strengthening of extremist forces," Brende said alluding to Kosovo's overrepresentation in jihadists, second only to Tunisia.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has the highest youth unemployment rate in the region, at a staggering 57.5 percent; youth unemployment in Serbia and Macedonia also hovers at around 50 percent.
In mid-May, Serbian, Albania, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Kosovan and Bosnian Herzegovinian leaders had talks with the EU leadership, indicating a shared goal of future EU membership.
In Norway, considerable Kosovan, Bosnian and Serbian diasporas have formed as a consequence of wars and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia in the 90s and the 00s.