Balkans Propose to Create Mini-Schengen

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia deliver a news conference at the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań, July 5
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia deliver a news conference at the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań, July 5 (Government of the Republic of Northern Macedonia)

Their EU accession blocked by France, Albania and North Macedonia are opting for a regional, if temporary, solution. Together with Serbia, the Balkan states are looking to create their own version of the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area.

  • Citizens of the three countries would no longer need a passport to cross the border, but only have to show an ID card.
  • Labor movement would be liberalized through the mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications.
  • Students could go on exchange.
  • Capital flows would be smoothened.

The other non-EU countries in the region — Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo — have been given the green light to join. Read more

Serbia Needs to Break with Russia

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia inspect an honor guard in Belgrade, January 17
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia inspect an honor guard in Belgrade, January 17 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russia and Serbia share a rich history of religious tradition and support. Russia has stood by what it considers its little brother for centuries and it continues to do so today. Just last week, Serbia received ten armored patrol vehicles from Russia. Thirty T-72B3 tanks are underway.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić has thanked Vladimir Putin for beefing up the Serbian military, but he should be wary of the implications. If Serbia wants to join the EU, it must avoid playing with fire. Read more

How Close Are Western Balkan States to Joining the EU?

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel chair a meeting with Balkan leaders in Berlin, April 29
French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel chair a meeting with Balkan leaders in Berlin, April 29 (Elysée/Soazig de la Moissonniere)

Leaders of the six Western Balkan countries that remain outside the EU are meeting in Poland this week to discuss their possible accession to the bloc. Four — Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — are candidates to become member states.

Last year, a similar summit was held where the existing member states expressed their concerns about corruption, weak governance and unfree markets in the region. What has changed since then? Read more

The European Protests You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference in Berlin, March 15, 2017
Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference in Berlin, March 15, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Large demonstrations have been taking place in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, every week since the end of November against the government of Aleksandar Vučić.

Vučić has been in power since 2014, first as prime minister and for the last two years as president. He leads the Serbian Progressive Party, which, despite its name, is right-wing. He started his career in the far-right Serbian Radical Party, which was founded by the convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj in 1991. Read more

Balkans Could Fall Victim to Putin-Trump Deal

NATO soldiers guard a road in Kosovo, January 5
NATO soldiers guard a road in Kosovo, January 5 (KFOR Kosovo)

Rumors of war abound. The simmering conflict of the Balkans may well grow to war again.

So go the whispers from Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. From Reuters to the The Globe and Mail, reports of war-like rhetoric between Kosovo and Serbia have emerged. Read more

Germany Concerned as Russia’s Balkan Influence Grows

Russian president Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel attend a conference at the Moscow Kremlin, November 16, 2012
Russian president Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel attend a conference at the Moscow Kremlin, November 16, 2012 (Bundesregierung)

Germany fears Russia intends to block further European Union expansion into the Balkans, according to a confidential Foreign Ministry analysis seen by weekly Der Spiegel.

The magazine reports that German diplomats worry Russia is levering its influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Serbia with an eye toward preventing both countries from fully joining the West. Read more

Prospects for Increased Balkan Security Cooperation Dim

American soldiers participate in a police training mission at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, April 6, 2011
American soldiers participate in a police training mission at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, April 6, 2011 (US Army/Evan V. Lane)

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. Read more