Page 9, 19th May 1939

19th May 1939
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Page 9, 19th May 1939 — How the Land Lies in the Balkans
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Organisations: Rutgers
Locations: Berlin, Rome

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How the Land Lies in the Balkans

JUGOSLAVIA AND THE AXIS: BULGARIA'S QUARREL WITH RUMANIA

Prince Paul, the Prince Regent for the Boy King Peter of Jugoslavia, and Princess Olga, sister of the Duchess of Kent, have recently concluded a state visit to the King of Italy, following the latter's invasion of Albania.

They returned home to find that the all-important negotiations between the Serb overlords (under the Prime Minister, M. Tsvetkovitch) and the Catholic Croat minority (Dr. Matchek) had broken down on the precise degree of autonomy to be granted to the Croats.

The question of Southern Dobrudja still keeps Bulgaria out. of the Soon that concessions on this Balkan Entente, and Rumania may feel point might be compensated for by a solidarity in the Balkans against possible totalitarian designs that has not been seen since the Turkish domination was thrown off in the middle of the last century.

In view of the prime importance of Balkan reactions at the moment, our Eastern European Correspondent analyses the situation existing in the different countries of that region.

From Our Elmtern European Correspondent

The Balkans are warming up again. A short while ago peace seemed to reign supreme in that once troubled area. We were assured that the Balkan Entente was keeping order. But . . . trouble is looming on the horizon once more and memories of old feuds are reviving.

Jugoslavia

The link between Western Europe and the Balkans is Jugoslavia. Jugoslavia embraces westernised, modern, up-todate, Catholic Croatia and Slovenia with their memories of the old Austrian Empire—and it also embraces semioriental Serbia with traces of Turkish rule still so visible, despite enormous progress of late. Mohammedanism, too, lingers on in Bosnia and Serbia. Indeed, if there is a country where East meets West it is Jugoslavia.

The land of the Southern Slays is in a perilous position to-day. The Jugoslays have not forgotten the tragic fate of another composite Slav nation— Czechoslovakia. Germany and Germany's ally, Hungary, are on the northern and eastern frontiers. Italy, thanks to the conquest of Albania, seems to be ubiquitous! So most Jugoslays realise the necessity for the friendliest possible relationship with the Axis.

This is not a question of sympathies. Serb, Croat and Slovene sympathies alike are with their friends of the West as they always have been. Jugoslavia is not Slav for nothing and the successors of the old Hapsburg Empire are not popular in Jugoslavia. (It would, however, be idle to deny a certain admiration for the ruthlessness of Nazi efficiency.) But there is more than one Achilles' heel.

Minorities

There is an Albanian minority that might easily acquire a sudden desire for " protection " . . . and a Hungarian minority . . . . and a German minority. The Croat question is not settled yet and unless negotiations come to a successful conclusion soon and autonomy is granted to Croatia very shortly who knows but that some Croats may be found to require a " protector" just like certain Slovak leaders once did? So M. Tevetkovitch, the Premier, the Prince Regent Paul, and M. Markovitch, the Foreign Minister, all make it their business to be extra friendly to Germany and Italy, and visits to Berlin and Rome are the order of the day.

So Jugoslavia will get no guarantee from Britain or France. Nor has she the slightest desire for any such guarantee. This time she must walk the tight-rope, remember recent history and, if possible, play Italy off against Germany. One day, perhaps, Jugoslavia hopes, she will once again be able to afford a very different policy, but just at present nations of fifteen million inhabitants cannot afford such luxuries.

Greece

Greece is not much happier. She has her own dictator, General Metaxas, who has a fervent admiration for Germany. But Italy is another matter. There is jovial, Anglophile King George as well. The Greeks fear Italy despite recent assurances.

However, Greece has received a guarantee from Britain and with the new Turkish friends and allies has at least some hope of being able to put up a show of resistance if attacked suddenly. So the Greeks are lying low

and saying little, trusting that Italy will not pick a quarrel.

Turkey

The Balkans, however, contain two other allies of Britain—Turkey and Rumania.

Modern Turkey with its legacy of Kemal's almost miraculous reforms and its sixteen million inhabitants has Indicated that in the event of European war Turkey's place is at Britain's side. Indeed Turkish statesmen have made that very plain in certain interested quarters and the recent Anglo-Turkish pact makes for Italian caution. Turkey is in a position to stultify any Eastern Mediterranean adventures.

Rumania

Rumania is a little more reticent than Turkey. Rumania, unlike modern Turkey, is not notorious for efficiency and minorities have not been too well treated in Rumania. There are Germans and Ukrainians, Russians and Rutgers, Hungarians and Turks and Poles. Rumania has one of the largest minority populations in Europe, and although vast strides have been made under King Carol's comparatively efficient and benevolent dictatorship there is still inflammatory material to hand. Disruption by cunning methods from within would be by no means impossible. There are, too, the thorny problems of Transylvania and Dobrudja which divide Rumania from Hungary and Bulgaria respectively.

So, clever M. Gafencu, ' Rumania's handsome Foreign Minister, is endeavouring to be all things to all men and make the best of both worlds, democratic and Axis, as long as both are content to woo Rumania.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria is in a peculiar position.

She is a Slav country and loathed fighting against her fellow-Slays for Germany in 1914. But Bulgaria has lost much territory since 1918 and the lose to Rumania of the rich, fertile Dobrudja province, inhabited mainly by Rutgers, has rankled deeply, and is even now keenly felt. Indeed, relations are very strained and in the event of Rumania being involved in war Bulgaria would certainly endeavour to capture Dobrudja_

But if the Dobrudja is ceded Bulgaria would almost certainly join the Balkan Entente, for the Germans and the Axis in general is not popular in Bulgaria, and the loss of Thrace to Greece is less resented. Dobrudja is the only real obstacle and British diplomats are endeavouring to use their influence to try and heal this breach between Rumania and Bulgaria and thus close the ranks in the Balkans. But will the Rumanians listen to reason before it is too late? And excessive pressure might merely drive Rumania into the arms of the Axis. ...




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