The ratification of the Macedonia name deal between Athens and Skopje on Friday capped a year in which the West renewed its focus on integrating the Western Balkans into the Euro-Atlantic community. Bulgaria factored into the renewed push to integrate the region into NATO and the EU because Sofia made Western Balkan integration a focal point of its European Council presidency that spanned the first half of 2018. Sofia capped its EU presidency by hosting the EU-Western Balkans summit last May. The summit was a high-level gathering of EU and Western Balkan leaders, the first of its kind in 15 years. Now that 2018 is complete and the Macedonia name dispute has been settled, one can have a clearer look at the fruits of Bulgaria’s push to
The purpose of this analysis is not to follow the chronicle of events, the media coverage and the reflections on President Putin’s visit to Belgrade, but to deliberate on its ‘net present value’ — what is its net impact and net worth as a trend. For all the hype and grand talk, the practical value is negligible, well below what both presidents Putin and Vučić ascribe to it. There is plenty of symbolism and posturing, but Russia’s real geostrategic agenda is not identical to what Vučić presents as national interests to the Serbian audience. Belgrade faces a dramatic dilemma – on one side, a possible date of entry into the EU of 2025, which seems increasingly chimeric, yet the only sensible option, as all neighbors are either
Following an eventful June, Montenegro is in NATO, Macedonia is out Brussels’ doghouse and Albania’s pro-EU government has a new-mandate. Kosovo’s government is more of a mystery. And Serbia’s government is now being led by an openly gay woman — a development seen by many as a mere facelift. While the Western Balkans made significant steps toward Euro-Atlantic integration, major ethnic-related issues remain unresolved and largely unaddressed. One such issue is the future of Albanians living outside of Albania. The rosy picture is that the entire Western Balkans will integrate into the EU and possibly NATO. Borders will be abolished and rival ethnic groups will live peacefully and prosperously together, enjoying freedom of movement across the region and beyond. That vision is coming into fruition very slowly,
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin will fall from power when another cataclysmic event reveals to his supporters among Russia’s rich and corrupt oligarchs that the emperor has no clothes, that his credibility as the country’s authoritarian leader is exhausted. This was the conclusion of several groups of senior Russian strategists convened in 2016 for The Jamestown Foundation’s “Russia in Decline” project. What might such a cataclysmic event be? Most of the strategists pointed to either “another Kursk,” referring to unexplained accident that sank Russia’s nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea in 2000 killing all 118 sailors, or a major military defeat. Imagine the Russian leader’s skimpy wardrobe in the aftermath of the horrific Syrian regime’s gas attacks on civilians, apparently with Russia’s sanction or support, which bears the hallmarks of
Early in 2017, headlines speculating about the possible outbreak of renewed war in the Balkans have popped up in the international press. Tensions that have been simmering in the Western Balkans in recent years are now gaining increasing attention in the sphere of geopolitics, particularly as they relate to the battle between the West and Russia for influence in the region. The West is now becoming increasingly concerned that Russia will stoke nationalism in the Balkans in order to ignite conflict, cause destabilization and consequentially halt Euro-Atlantic expansion. While ethnic tensions are a core and explosive issue in the region, economic productivity, or lack thereof, may be as responsible if not more for the instability that exists in the Western Balkans. The region’s poor economic prospects have much to
Although seventeen years have elapsed since NATO’s military intervention, policy makers should not assume that all conflicts in the Western Balkans have been assigned to history. Disputes continue to fester over statehood, territory, and political authority, compounded by the uncertainties of international integration. The promise of EU and NATO membership has been the key incentive to democratize each state and promote inter-ethnic co-existence. Without that prospect reforms falter and local disputes are revived. In the wake of the EU’s existential crisis and preoccupation with “Brexit,” enlargement is not high on the Union’s agenda. It seems unlikely that any country can be considered for accession for at least a decade. Such receding opportunities for membership will undermine Balkan commitments to the rule of law and can result in democratic reversals.
With a Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket, Tuesday’s United States elections are generating significant interest in the Balkans and are dividing some neighbors along familiar ethnic lines. A quick trip around the Western Balkans reveals Clinton footprints all over the region, some of which trigger feelings of immense gratitude and some of which are the source of long-lasting anger. In the latter half of the 1990s, then-president Bill Clinton arguably delivered peace through strength to the Balkans. However, Clinton’s signature peace agreement is malfunctioning as a system of governance, and the U.S. interventions in the region have left a trail of radical Islam and unhealed wounds that are affecting geopolitics. Peace through strength Clinton-led NATO interventions effectively put an end to both the brutal
On consecutive Sundays, voters in Bosnia went to the polls amid rising ethnic tensions that are jeopardizing the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration. Neither a referendum in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, nor local elections held nationwide, did anything to alleviate the ethnic division. In the week leading up to the referendum, war talk made headlines in the Balkans. A wartime Bosnian Army commander suggested the Serb entity, Republika Srpska, could be occupied in 15 days. The suggestion prompted Belgrade to issue a statement saying it would come to the defense of its fellow Serbs if Republika Srpska was attacked. Zagreb also offered backing for the Bosnian Croats. On Sept. 25, Republika Srpska held a referendum on its national holiday. Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik proceeded with the vote in defiance of