BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Serbia on Wednesday ushered in a new national holiday with a display of military might and calls on all Serbs in the Balkans to unite under one flag, sparking unrest among its neighbors decades after calls similar led to bloody wars in the 1990s.
Serbs have been asked to display thousands of red, blue and white national flags wherever they live in the region or around the world to mark “Serbian Unity, Freedom and National Flag Day”.
Opening the full day of celebrations, Populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic inspected military equipment on display in a Belgrade park, praising the military’s readiness to respond to external threats.
He said the military is “five times stronger” than just a few years ago and announced new military purchases.
The show of force of Serbian leaders as well as their calls for the creation of the “Serbian world”, or for the political unification of some 1.3 million Serbs living in Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Croatia with Serbia , have raised concerns in neighboring countries. States.
In the 1990s, Serbian forces with financial and political support from Belgrade waged bloody campaigns in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo with the aim of forming a “Greater Serbia”. The campaign tried unsuccessfully to redraw the internal borders of the former Yugoslavia and create a single Serbian state.
Renewed calls for pan-Serbian unity have further increased tensions in the Balkans.
Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said he could “not believe that the Serbs had nothing more important or smarter to do” than to create vacations that infringe on the internal affairs of neighboring states.
Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, the most fervent supporter of the “Serbian world”, was quick to react.
“There is nothing more important than the preservation of Serbian identity,” he said.
The new national holiday coincides with the day the Royal Serbian Army and French troops defeated Axis forces in a famous World War I battle in northern Greece in 1918.
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