01/07/2016

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Instability on the Balkans - Croatia - Gordana Knezevic at the Danube Institute 2016 06 07

Instability on our doorstep? The changing geo-politics of the Balkans Winston Churchill remarked that the Balkans displayed a distinct tendency to produce more history than could be consumed locally. But following the collapse of communism and the end to the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, it seemed possible to hope that the Balkans would enjoy a period of stability, and that the countries of the region could make progress in establishing themselves as secure and independent democratic states. All of them expressed the ambition to join NATO and the EU; Croatia, along with Albania joined the former in 2009, Croatia the European Union in 2013; and Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia have been confirmed as candidate EU members. Montenegro is expected to join NATO in the coming months. The Balkans form a highly sensitive, coherent geo-strategic unity. The need to secure access to the region and to influence events there explains the centuries-old temptation of non-Balkan powers to interfere in its affairs. It is now evident that the new tensions are emerging partly as the result of pressures being applied by external powers. It would appear that the aim of Russian policy is to frustrate the desire of those living in the region to join the West: it challenges the post-Cold War settlement as it attempts to destabilize the region by means of propaganda, dezinformatsia, and support for anti-democratic forces. From Bosnia to Kosovo, large amounts of money have poured in from Saudi Arabia, with Wahhabi Islam targeting young populations mired in poverty, unemployment and corruption. These developments and their implications for the future of the region were discussed at a Danube Institute conference on 7th June 2016.

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