Much has been achieved in the Western Balkans since the end of the Yugoslav Wars, yet much remains to be done. The current hard-won stability is something to rejoice at, but severe causes for concern still abound.
The issue of Macedonian identity is a political minefield which stretches beyond the naming dispute of the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with Greece. The stakes are high in getting it right because its outcome will not only reshape the future of the population 2-million country and the Western Balkans at large, but also the leverage of the EU in the region and its ambition to be the peace project uniting the whole of Europe.
Two years have passed since the refugee deal between the European Union and Turkey that officially closed the so-called "Balkan Route". But in these two years, facts have shown that this route has not been completely closed: it has only changed its directions and has become even more dangerous for migrants who are trying to reach Europe.
Most experts agree that Serbia has a "single-issue", the foreign policy of countersecession following Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. This issue shapes Serbia's official discourse and foreign policy.
In 2015, the Kosovar Parliament passed a law to establish a Special Court in The Hague in order to investigate war crimes perpetrated in Kosovo between January 1998 and December 2000.
The Western Balkans – that is, the countries of former Yugoslavia minus Slovenia and Croatia, plus Albania – are faring relatively better than other regions on the edges of Europe. Unlike their Eastern neighbours, they are on track to become members of the European Union (EU).
Imagine for a moment that the so-called Western Balkan countries were as rich and democratically consolidated as Switzerland, Norway or even tiny Iceland: would you doubt for a second that the EU leaders would not beg them to join the Union? Especially after Brexit has instilled so much impending doom into minds of the political class in Berlin, Paris and elsewhere. Accepting rich and politically straightforward new members would be a welcome remedy against Angst in the corridors of power throughout the continent!
Italy’s foreign policy has traditionally considered the Balkan region as a key area of political, economic and even cultural projection since its own unification process in the late 19th century. This made the history of Italy and of the Balkans increasingly, albeit often problematically, intertwined.
Involvement of international actors has been essential in resolving conflicts, rebuilding, and helping reconcile the Western Balkans in the last few decades. Throughout the 1990s, foreign intervention was meant to stop the bloodshed in the region after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, ending the wars in the region.
The opening of the so-called Western Balkan route in the summer of 2015 brought the region back to our living rooms and to political boardrooms. One could sense relief and hope among those long advocating for increased efforts on the side of the EU for the Thessaloniki agenda to reach its finalité. Relief because it looked like the immense strains the refugee wave put on the countries along the route did not seem to endanger the regional stability still feared to be fragile.