Europe and the Western Balkans

Archive Profile

2014 Country Profile

With the continuing presence of various peacekeeping and political missions, including the United Nations (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and European Union (EU), the security situation in the Balkans remained largely stable in 2013 and 2014. Northern Kosovo, a source of insecurity in the region, also enjoyed a period of relative calm, in large part due to the EU-sponsored dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. Significant political challenges remain in the north, however, as a watershed agreement reached in 2013 and aimed at integrating the north into Kosovo’s legal system nears implementation.

In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) there were sporadic incidents of instability, including social demonstrations against poor public management and corruption. Contested and allegedly fraudulent elections also served to undermine political stability in FYROM and Montenegro, and inter-ethnic tensions remained a significant source of insecurity in FYROM, BiH, and Kosovo. The situation in FYROM worsened significantly in the second quarter of 2015, as police clashed with protestors in the capital Skopje and 22 people were killed in a shoot-out in the north of the country apparently involving ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

Progress towards EU accession was significant during this period. Croatia joined the bloc in July 2013, Serbia started accession talks in June 2013, Albania gained candidate status in June 2014, and Kosovo made significant progress in the initiation of a Stabilization and Association Agreement, the pre-stage of EU accession. Stalled reforms, however, delayed progress towards EU accession for BiH and FYROM. This development is likely to create a division in the region, with BiH and FYROM sinking further into the political backwater.

Background

Following Yugoslavia’s disintegration, which led to the worst violence in Europe since the end of World War II, numerous peacekeeping and political missions were deployed in the Balkans. Many of these missions are phased out, but various peacekeeping forces remain in BiH and Kosovo. In BiH, the UN and NATO undertook police and military activities following the adoption of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. These missions were replaced with the EU Police Mission (EUPM) in 2003 (the mission close Read More...

Key developments

Kosovo Kosovo declared independence unilaterally in 2008. Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence created a political quagmire in the north where Kosovo Serbs reject Pristina’s authority and remain largely under Serbian control. An EU initiated and UN approved dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo aimed at promoting cooperation began in March 2011. Initial talks produced various agreements, but a rift over border control threatened to unravel the process in the summer of 2011. Wit Read More...

Conclusion

Ethnic tensions continue to pose the greatest security threat in the Balkans, particularly in BiH, Kosovo and FYROM. Whereas the EU dialogue in Kosovo has contributed significantly to defusing tensions, many challenges lie ahead. A majority of Kosovo Serbs in the north who feel marginalized since the start of the EU dialogue and the local elections (after all, the EU dialogue does not involve Kosovo Serbs in the north in the negotiations), have opposed the 2013 EU-brokered agreement and have eng Read More...

With the continued presence of various peacekeeping and political missions from the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the European Union, the security situation in the Balkans remained relatively stable in 2012, with delicate gains toward political reforms achieved. In light of this progress, the EU Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the International Civilian Office in Kosovo (ICO) were both closed in 2012.

However, fragility persisted in some parts of the region. Episodes of interethnic vio lence in both Kosovo and the Former Yugo slav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) served to raise concern among international officials. Confrontations between NATO forces and Kosovo Serbs over roadblocks in northern Kosovo also continued to pose safety, security, and political challenges to the functioning of international missions in the region. The EUmediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina resolved various technical issues in 2012, but stepped-up efforts are required to solve the impasse in the north. While no major political crisis impacted the region in 2012, the reform process in countries such as BiH has stagnated, despite a strengthened EU presence, following the adop tion of the Lisbon Treaty. Corruption and organized crime remain problems throughout the region, and progress on dealing with these issues has been slow.

Background

Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, numerous peacekeeping and political missions were deployed in the region. Many of these initiatives have been phased out, but Kosovo and BiH continue to host a number of peacekeeping forces. In BiH, in 2003–2004, the EUPM and the EU Force (EUFOR Althea) succeeded UN and NATO missions, which undertook police and military activities following the adoption of the Dayton Accords in 1995. The EUPM’s central tasks focused on policing, Read More...

Key developments

Bosnia and Herzegovina  The overall security situation in BiH was relatively stable in 2012, but organized crime, corruption, and smuggling remain considerable challenges. Notwithstanding, the EU proceeded with the closing of the EUPM in June 2012, almost a decade following its inception. Born as the first EU crisis management operation, EUPM faced numerous challenges in implementing its mandate. In this context, the EU and the OSCE will continue to support the rule of law in BiH. The EU will w Read More...

Conclusion

While corruption, organized crime, and restrictions on media continue to pose important challenges to the consolidation of democratic institutions in Albania, Serbia, and Montenegro, volatile ethnic relations in FYROM, BiH, and Kosovo represent the greatest risks to regional stability. The prospect of EU accession has served to motivate and promote stability, but only Serbia and Montenegro remain on track for EU membership.11 FYROM has wanted to start accession talks since 2005, whereas BiH has Read More...