Comment 14 Dec 17

Rising Balkan Risks Demand Action Home and Abroad

Heightened tensions and potential violence have been predicted for the Balkans in 2018, so people in the region must find the courage to seek solutions themselves, with help from Washington and Brussels.

Daniel Serwer
Illustration. Photo: Pixabay

People in the Balkans have been surprised that the Council on Foreign Relations, a distinguished think-tank in the US located a stone's throw from the White House, has listed the Balkans among its conflict prevention priorities for 2018.

The CFR warned specifically of "escalating tensions or extremist violence in the Balkans - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia - resulting in political instability and armed clashes", and rated the likelihood moderate but the impact on US interests low.

This ‘tier III’ rating has nevertheless excited a good deal of interest, even though it is no more than a recognition in Washington of what people in the Balkans have known for years: economic recession and social decay are taking a toll, EU membership is proving too distant to convince Balkan politicians to take the risks associated with reform, and Russia is doing its best to block progress towards NATO and the EU.

There is no crystal ball needed to suggest there is a risk of armed clashes and extremist violence in a region that has already seen an attack on the Macedonian parliament, paramilitaries crossing the border from Kosovo, threats of an independence referendum in Republika Srpska in violation of the Dayton peace accords, and recruitment of religious and ethnic extremists to fight both in Syria and Ukraine.

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