Sergey Shargunov, Russian State Duma Deputy, claims that "Russia has a romantic relationship with the Western Balkans". A question follows: are the Western Balkans in love with Russia, too?
Kosovo as a state is not just a product of the popular will to self-determination, but also a product of the liberal international order that is now being dismantled. It was able to secede from Serbia and gain recognition from an overwhelming majority of Western countries (and others) based on the liberal understanding of international law that dominated in the age of US unipolar dominance. This was confirmed by the 2011 verdict of the International Court of Justice, which ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was not in contradiction to international law.
Serbia and Montenegro are frequently labelled as ‘frontrunners’ among the Western Balkan countries when it comes to EU enlargement, as they are currently the only ones that have opened their EU accession negotiations. However, they are likely to have one more contender for the frontrunner title, as there is another country which made the largest leap forward among all Western Balkan countries when it comes to EU enlargement in the last few years: North Macedonia.
Twenty years have passed since NATO’s bombing campaign on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that ended the wars that shook the Balkans for a decade. Since then, the region has changed considerably, but it has retained its role as a bridge between the East and the West, because of the great influence from both Western institutions like the EU and countries like Russia, China or Turkey.
In 1999, the NATO bombing of Serbia and Montenegro put an end to war in Kosovo and to the long, bloody process of the collapse of Yugoslavia. The legacy of the destructive Nineties dictated the future political agendas for Balkan countries, which committed themselves to EU integration, though keeping doors open to other international players.
Moldova’s transition towards a functioning democracy seems to be a long shot.
Some thirty years ago, the American economist Charles Schultze (former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and director of the Budget Bureau) addressed a question in reference to the U.S. budget deficit in terms of a metaphor: Is it a wolf at the door, a domestic pussycat, or termites in the basement? In retrospect, the question, raised at a time when the ratio of U.S. general government debt to economic output stood at less than 60 per cent, seems rather trivial in the light of a debt ratio nearly twice as high today and rising.