The Munich Report, published just ahead of the Munich Security Conference, titled “The Great Puzzle: Who will pick up the pieces?”, speaks about the current situation in the Western Balkans and says:” “The most recent addition to the regional power game is China, and the EU suspects that it may exploit its economic heft for political gains.”
The segment of the report dedicated to this region is entitled, “Western Balkans: With friends like these…,” and it states that EU leaders “recognize the strategic importance of this missing piece in the ‘jigsaw of Europe’.”
“However, the lack of political and economic progress in the region, as well as enlargement fatigue within the European Union, have diminished the belief in the inevitability of EU accession on both sides,” it continued.
At the same time, the report went on, “the region remains fragile: in December 2018, Kosovo – against NATO’s wishes – decided to set up its own army, which Serbia answered by threatening an armed intervention.”
Meanwhile, in Sarajevo, the Munich Security Conference document said, fears of escalating ethnic tensions have risen as “Serb nationalist Milorad Dodik” won a seat in the country’s presidency.
And, according to this, “the people of the Western Balkans express their discontent both through protests and with their feet as young people, especially, are leaving the region.”
“The negative developments in the Western Balkans are being reinforced as other actors increase their influence, in particular, China and Russia,” the report said, adding: “The latter has been a traditional player in the region, but now views the Balkans as a key part of a new ‘great game’, which may help distract and weaken the European Union.”
Moscow has been accused of employing measures to destabilize the Western Balkans, including active efforts to foment ethnic conflict and to exacerbate frustration with the European Union by means of anti-Western propaganda, the report noted.
But, it continued, “a most recent addition to the regional power game is China.”
All Western Balkan states, except so-called Kosovo, are “embedded in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative through the 16+1 format,” the report said.
The coming year will give some indication as to whether the region itself also still believes in a European future,” stated the report, published ahead of the security conference held in Munich, Germany, between February 15th and 17th.
This post is also available in: Italiano