Hopefully, this will not be my last Bulgaria Analytica article. But with the current state of media you never know. So I think it’s an opportune time for me to reflect on my time as a correspondent for Bulgaria Analytica and the Center for Balkan and Black Sea Studies (CBBSS), and more so, on the past five-plus years — a period I’ve spent almost entirely outside of my native United States. As necessity is the mother of invention, it could be said travel is the mother of an expanded worldview. I’d like to think my worldview has expanded significantly as I’ve spent most of the past five years traveling and doing a lot of reporting along the way. Journalistically, I typically neither write in first person,
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
“There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” Ronald Reagan Being an academic researcher I am not used to writing in popular style. Less I am used to writing as a journalist. Nevertheless, being an expert in theology I shall try to analyze the famous case of the proposal of the “Macedonian Church,” comparing it to the Bulgarian one. First of all, I cannot agree with many Bulgarian analysts that the Patriarchate of Bulgaria must acknowledge the “Macedonian Church” as such. On the other hand, I do agree that the question is of a geopolitical importance and not just a local one. Second, I am absolutely astonished by Bulgarian society and its
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,
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.
In a parliamentary election full of twists and turns, a Macedonian party led by a former prime minister now under criminal investigation eked out a victory and picked up just enough seats to return to power. The result will likely prolong Macedonia’s political crisis, but it could signal the small Balkan state is climbing out of the European Union’s doghouse and is remaining on the path toward Euro-Atlantic integration. Former prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party entered Sunday’s election as the clear frontrunner. Gruevski and VMRO ruled Macedonia for nearly a decade until, in January, the premier resigned under an EU-brokered agreement. Though Gruevski and many of his former government officials are currently being probed by a special prosecutor, VMRO amassed considerable popularity and control over Macedonian institutions