Serbia celebrated a new national day of unity, amid concerns from its neighbors in the Western Balkans.
Belgrade kicked off the holidays on Wednesday with a show of military might and called on all Serbs in the Balkans to unite under one flag.
Serbs have been asked to display thousands of red, blue and white national flags wherever they live to mark “Serbian Unity, Freedom and National Flag Day”.
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.
President Aleksandar Vučić also inspected military equipment on display in a park in Belgrade, praising the army’s readiness to respond to external threats.
Vučić said the army is “five times stronger” than just a few years ago and announced new military purchases.
The display sparked unrest among its neighbors, decades after similar calls led to deadly wars in the 1990s.
Over two decades ago, 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 to unite around 1.3 million Serbs living in Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Croatia with Serbia have further increased tensions in the Balkans.
Croatian President Zoran Milanović said he could not believe that Serbs “have nothing more important or smarter to do” than create vacations that infringe on the internal affairs of neighboring states.
But Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin quickly responded that “there is nothing more important than the preservation of Serbian identity”.