Prospects for Increased Balkan Security Cooperation Dim

Former Yugoslavian states’ troubled history will likely prevent stronger security relations.

Southeastern European countries that were once joined in Yugoslavia battle similar economic and security challenges yet prospects for enhanced cooperation in both areas seem dim.

Many of the West Balkan republics are coping with economic stagnation and high organized crime rates, the roots of which can often be traced to the political top, frustrating efforts to curb them. Regional cooperation to strengthen economies ties as well as the fight against organized crime promises improvement but chances of a true security community emerging are slim.

In 1957, the Czechoslovak, later American, political scientist Karl W. Deutsch defined a security community as a region where war is most unlikely to occur and members share the expectation of finding peaceful solutions to disputes. He identified two types of security communities: pluralistic and amalgamated. In the latter, member states surrender some of their sovereignty to a supreme decisionmaking body. Given the former Yugoslavian states’ recent struggles for independence, that is unlikely to transpire in the short term.

For a pluralistic security community to emerge, Deutsch argued that countries should share values, a distinctive way of life and the expectation of economies gains. Those conditions are present in the Western Balkans.

An example of improving economic relations is the joining of formerly struggling national airlines into a transnational group. Deeper economic integration may be hampered, however, by the inclusion of some West Balkan states — Croatia and Slovenia — into the European Union which promises greater benefits than a regional trade bloc.

Security cooperation is still limited. The police forces of Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia have worked together in counternarcotics operations but there is no permanent framework for future such cooperation.

The region’s troubled history will likely frustrate the creation of an independent regional security community. Enhanced economic and security relations within the European Union — Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are candidates for membership — look more promising.