comment 13 Dec 16

The Euro-Atlantic Project is Ending in the Balkans

As the UK and America withdraw from the region, Europe’s ability to use ‘soft power’ to nudge the Balkans in the direction of liberal democracy will further decline, making instability more likely.

Jasmin Mujanovic
 Members of Bosnia's presidency with German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin in July. Photo: Anadolu Agency.

For all the trappings of European soft power, the post-Yugoslav settlement in the Western Balkans was always primarily the result of the security guarantees provided to the region by three states: the US, UK, and Germany. As of January 20, 2017, two of those three guarantors will for all intents and purposes disappear from the calculus of regional politics in any meaningful sense.

A post-Brexit United Kingdom and a Donald Trump-led United States will no longer be factors in the politics of the Western Balkans. There will be no official announcement of this and American and British aid of various sorts will likely continue to flow.

But it will be directed towards marginalia and take the form of stopgap measures and photo-ops. It will not be directed towards addressing and resolving structural questions of the region’s politics.  

British and American evacuation from the Balkans will leave Germany in a delicate position. Berlin is already under tremendous pressure as the lone liberal-democratic stalwart in a sea of reactionary populists. Virtually alone, Germany holds together the European project in the face of seething financial unrest in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and against resurgent Russian power.

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