The West Balkans: Between the EU, the USA and Russia

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“The realisation of the South Stream project would help consolidate EU-Russian co-operation in the West Balkans,” writes Dušan Relji?, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, in an August paper.

“Because of the close cultural and historical ties and affinity to Russia in parts of the population and the political elite in the region, the West Balkan countries are more open to increased cooperation with Russia than are the Baltic or Central European countries,” wrote Relji?.

“The West Balkan states […] view Russia as an extremely attractive economic partner,” he said, but Western Balkan EU membership “could be a political and economic advantage for Moscow as well”.

Relji? calls on the EU to include Russia in common political projects “that will increase security in the Balkans and in Europe”.

The author points to the EU’s “so-called ‘enlargement fatigue’,” which he believes is spreading uncertainty among prospective members.

Moreover, according to Relji?, this “fatigue” is not helping to diffuse the crisis between Brussels and Belgrade on the issue of recognising Kosovo’s independence.

“As long as such a framework is missing, the region will remain on the verge of a dangerous security crisis,” he explained.

“The guideline principle of European policy toward the West Balkans should be: the EU must not allow the area to be viewed as the front court of either Russia or the USA,” Relji? declares.

“To increase the credibility and assertiveness of EU West Balkan policy,” Relji? suggests giving “candidate status for EU membership to all states in the region who have not yet received it” (i.e. Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania).

“This would signal to the countries that the EU will keep its promises and they need not search alternatives to EU membership,” he states.

Thus, “South Stream is one of the most important components of Europe’s energy security concept, which is being forged in dialogue with Russia,” the paper concludes. 

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