REACT! Yearbook 2018 Western Balkans in 20 years â€“ challenges and opportunities
REACT! Yearbook 2018
Dear friends, This publication comprises fteen different thinking, dilemmas and hopes respectfully, with reference to the Western Balkans to be nally safe and stable and as such to signify a location where all residents live a better life. Actually, this is a collection of essays on the topic of The Western Balkans in 20 Years: Challenges and Opportunities, which the authors both prepared during the summer of 2018 and aimed at participating in the National Competitions (NEC) across the Western Balkans.. The said Competition is actually an activity introduced within the framework of the Project “REACT!“ supported by the Regional Youth Cooperation Ofce (RYCO). The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily present the views of RYCO. The two rst-ranking essays' authors had an opportunity to stay for six days in one out of the Regional Centers active in Skopje, Belgrade, Banja Luka, Pristina, Sarajevo and Niksic. All the twelve participants in the exchange were in the foregoing towns for the rst time. Besides internship in the foregoing partner organizations, namely Centar za istraživanje i kreiranje politika“, Skoplje; „Evropski pokret u Srbiji“, Belgrade; Centar za medjunarodne odnose Banja Luka;, „Balkan Forum“, Pristina; „Agencija za promociju poslovanja“, Sarajevo; and Alfa Centar, Nikšić, these young persons got familiar with the national institutions, organizations and cultural wealth and heritage. From September 3rd to September 8th, the regional youth got together in Vusanje Village located within the Gusinje Municipality. Their peers from Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Croatia joined them. The eleventh, namely the 2018 Regional Euro Atlantic Camp (REACT) Summer School-arranged in the amazing Montenegrin rural ambience focused their attention on the standard topics, whereas particularly to the youth policy of reconciliation and intellectual exchange ones. More information about REACT Camp is available at www.reactmontenegro.me The publication is illustrated with authentic photos taken during the event. After several working and socializing days, future regional leaders left Gusinje taking with them a clear message that reads as follows: “The young need to assume responsibilities for and to participate actively in all ongoing processes within the Western Balkans Region. Getting to know each other, accepting diversity, communicating and cooperating stand as the fundamental precondition for maintaining the Region stable and safe. The single message of peace and tolerance, a huge number of friendships as well as the 2018 REACT participants' positive energy has dispersed a strong optimism about the place where we live today in terms that it will cease to be “complex” and that coming generations will enjoy higher quality conditions for their studies, career development and starting and keeping their own families. And last, but not least, this publication will serve for comparing their wishes and hopes with what is ahead of us in the following 20 years. Sincerely, Milos Perovic, Youth Director Program ALPHA Centre
This publication is produced with the support of the Regional Youth Cooperation Ofď€ ce â€“ RYCO. Its content is the sole responsibility of ALPHA Centre and its partners and does not necessarily present the views of RYCO.
Jovana Curic Pale, Bosnia and Herzegovina The countries of the Western Balkans will need 50 or 60 years to reach the European Union standard of life, states the report of the British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, which was published shortly before the recent summit in London. Source: B&H news portal: Klix.ba The term Western Balkans is rst used at the beginning of the 21st century. The former SFRY countries that fall under this term are: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania. In order for each of these countries, individually, to move forward and really achieve something in 20 years, we should set aside the issues of 26 years ago. And by setting aside certain political topics related to the period that had cost us a normal future, I mean that it is something we should not forget in order not to repeat it, and not in order to be pulled apart again. Young people in the Western Balkans rarely voice their opinion, mainly because they stick to other people's stories, other ideologies, taken from parents, the media and nationalism as a state basis not in the sense of patriotism but fascism (“For a patriot, the main values are “res publica and the free living which it provides”, as opposed to a nationalist, for whom the greatest values are “unity and cultural and spiritual purity of a people”, i.e. nation”). We should move forward at a quicker pace, turn to the future ( to which, I assume, one should be probably move with a goal to make something better than the past and present); the youth should start building a country with their own, new and different views and thinking, not imitate other people's ideas but rather work on their own. EU and the Western Balkans: a year of uncertainty The Brussels expects that 2018 will be a key year in which countries of the Western Balkans will make steps which will irreversibly bring them closer to the EU. The expectations are great, both in Brussels and in the region. However, what are the real possibilities? DW We would have many more chances for any sort of progress if we would focus less on the EU, USA and Russia, if we would turn more to ourselves - I think that then we ourselves could even choose under whose thumb we would be, or in the best case, decide on the right for our own freedom of decision - when and what we want and wish. With this kind of economic situation in every republic individually, joining the EU can only lead to an even bigger collapse and a return to the Stone Age, loss of people (citizens) which actually constitutes a country-nation that is leaving the Western Balkans rapidly. Even though, according to Ms. Kneissl, we are already a part of Europe (which we know already since we learn in elementary school that Balkan is a part of the European continent), nevertheless somewhere represented as third world countries, we have to fulll certain conditions in order to belong to it – it is absurd. If we want to achieve something in 20 years, we have to score goals; the comparison to a sports game is not so bad. The question that arises is do the EU and other countries involved in our progress honestly want that and who should we score goals and root for in order to win this game, played for us by others? Can we truly manage to progress with these political pawns of ours, that have been selling us for three decades already? In only a couple of years there will be holograms across the world and for us in 20 years - only dust we will leave behind while running from our homes. Where will we run to?
Precisely to those that have put is 'in the middle' (Similar to 'dribble'. A game played when a couple of players pass the ball to each other, avoiding the player that is in the middle of the circle they form. When the player touches the ball, he switches his place with the player that last touched the ball before him. In everyday speech used for situations when more people, in agreement, try to trick you. Democracy is the worst form of state if we disregard all others. - Winston Churchill. We will come far if we proceed with this democracy of ours, which is everything except freedom. What good is freedom of speech for me, if my voice is not heard by anybody? Why do we protest in a peaceful-democratic manner without results? We have a miserable democracy and the future with our current democratic government. Our government is neither socialist nor democratic, but rather tyrannical and slavery like, it is a wolf in sheepskin, it is loans and debts - enslavement. Among the systems that aren't good, the most bearable one is democracy. Aristotle The long awaited and announced strategy of including Western Balkans countries (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo*) in the European Union, which was prepared by the European Commission, was presented to the public in the European Parliament on the February 6, 2018. A Credible Enlargement Perspective for and Enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans (full name of the strategy), announced as an ambitious plan, doesn't bring anything new. The document in question is a futile one which only perfectly well illustrates all the complexity of relationships within the European Union itself and conď€‚icts of the members, which cannot actually agree on anything important, especially not on providing the security order of Southeastern Europe and MENA (North Africa and the Middle East). Namely, it is about the only free direction of projecting geo-economic and geopolitical interests of Germany and the most powerful member states of the EU toward the Middle East and further into Asia, considering that the direction across Ukraine is completely closed by war efforts. That clearly portrays the undeniable fact of a complete absence of any consensus within the European Union and the predominance of egoistical individual interests of the most powerful European states.( PhD Jadranka PoloviÄ‡ and Mario Stefanov). "*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence
By reading the above mentioned article, we will come across a part which portrays democracy as something imported and imposed. We believe in a system that is imposed on us and we ght for it. So, however you put it, we are already under, and in 20 years I sincerely hope that we will be able to save our pride for at least a little bit, when they take us from behind. I think that I have more than less explained what I think of our chances for progress, and as for challenges, they are present both in better and in worse conditions. We are small even when we are together, but at least then we are stronger than scattered and ghting on six fronts. I think that socialism would do us more good in moving forward, and that is also a mission of every society as well - to socialize. .... “We people are gypsies cursed by destiny Someone outside always comes to threaten us Even bands are not even as they used to be My amateur one is preparing to record Balkans Balkans My Balkans Be strong for me And stay well!” Azra – Balkan
Radoje Kandic Niksic, Montenegro In the geopolitical terminology of the Western Balkans, often referred to with not so subtle, but a very picturesque and plastic metaphor of "barrel of gunpowder", represents one delicate area where a large number of socio - cultural and economic diversities is present. The biggest challenge for this space, both through history and today, is intensive work in the ď€ eld of improving the common life of all its inhabitants, which can be most effectively achieved by attaining a greater degree of democracy and the rule of law, resulting in strengthening territorial defense, all in order to achieve historical and multiculturalism ideals of this area, i.e. interethnic reconciliation, which would lead to progress in all other spheres. On the other hand, the biggest opportunity for the Western Balkans and the shortest route to fulď€ llment of these goals is the implementation of integrative processes towards the European Union and the NATO alliance, while not neglecting the historical, traditional and spiritual values of all nations in this region.
Namely, the inhabitants of the countries of the region must realize that the future lies not in the arrogant advocacy of nationalistic, autarchic and isolationist attitudes, but in the sincere, continuous and committed desire to fulď€ ll all the necessary prerequisites, in order for each of the Western Balkan countries to become part of the community of European nations, sharing a common civilization framework. Montenegro made the farthest achievement in the process.
Bulgarian presidency of the European Union, which resulted in the organization of the summit of the EU countries in Soa, from which they sent a message of unreserved support to the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans, has given wind to the core of all candidate countries for membership in the EU. It is necessary to nd nal and legally binding solutions for bilateral disputes rooted in heritage from the past, by a common and coordinated response to numerous security challenges, including the ght against terrorism and extremism. Every country from the Western Balkans should form a common platform in which the focus will be on external and security policy, but also on promoting internal legal, economic, social and cultural reforms, which are vital for the overall political transformation of society. Security represents the conditio sine qua non of development in all other elds. Changes of values, calming of mutual passions, and forgetting of recently made blood disorders is slow process that, by no means, must not be hindered by some new warfare or extremist political adventures. This would mean returning centuries back and repetition of previous historical stumbling. After the Second World War, political wounds were deep. The SFRY tried to heal these wounds, but they additionaly deepened in the 1990s, despite previous period of having noble, honorable and for people very useful economic socialist initiative, because national and religious issues of Yugoslav people were unjustly being pushed under the carpet. Unfortunately, now we are forced to perceive again the necessity of integration into the new community within the EU, because we unadvisedly lost our previous community, which means that instead of deciency of the visionary politics during the crisis period of the 1990s, we initiated a irreversible lagging process, and did not try to reform the Yugoslav community with a more loose confederation and thereby keep the continuity of recognition and progress in all elds. The Western Balkans can at any moment become the scene of new conicts. Conicts can happen in Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the repeated conicts would weaken the whole of Europe and therefore international forces mustn't withdraw from this area. This presence must have two essential components: security and political. The security component would consist of maintaining the presence of international peacekeepers because they are often the sole guarantor and brakes of the warfare. The political component is more complex and it must include a reduction in feeling that Western Balkan is region excluded from international processes, the reduction of the unemployment rate and poverty, and therefore the extent of illegal activities. The most important, but certainly the most difcult political mission, for the international community in the Western Balkans, is revising of the existing borders. Strategy of uncompromising retaining the borders set up in the former Yugoslavia, resulted in the formation of three serious problems: secessionist Kosovo, a Macedonian state, that did not regulate even the elementary issues of its name and multi-national harmony, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, country composed of two articial entities, the country which none of its inhabitants doesn't perceive as his own, and that results in nationalistic incidents, galloping corruption and legal uncertainty in all areas. Northern part of Kosovo must belong to Serbia, but most of that region will become part of newly born country. Serbia has to show understanding of the changed ethnic structure and territorial redistribution, in that way rising above political and mythological constructions. Cultural-historical context must be respected, which would mean that all orthodox sacred and historical facilities must remain fully accessible to Serbian people. For the second, Macedonian problem, the only solution would be some sort of federal arrangement. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the needs of all three constituent nations of this republic should be listened. Namely, the entity of Republic Srpska should become independent, or even part of Serbia, if it is the majority desire of its inhabitants. Similar model should be applied to the Croats, and the Bosniaks would adjust without difculties to the new situation. Based on historical experiences, it is easy to conclude that, to the inhabitants of the Western Balkans, their name, religion and nation represent extremely important categories, which need priority regulation, and then, the mission of securing economic well-being can start.
On the other hand, the EU faces the greatest temptations since it emerged: migrant crisis, Brexit, reduction of support by the United States, strengthening of Russia and East Asia countries, etc. The European Union must provide its own answer to such problems by consolidation, strengthening the role of the European Parliament, but not at the expense of endangering national parliaments and governments, by introducing a clear division of responsibilities in the management and giving legally binding force to numerous European Union acts that exists like recommendations today. The EU must not demonstrate a tearing away from integration because that fatigue is projected on aspirant countries for membership, which leads to the exhaustion of their political elites and population, having for result a decline in membership support and searching for new partners (e.g Turkey). In spite of all, accession to the European Union remains a unique instrumentality of continuing the political transformation of the Western Balkan states. The integration process itself is fundamentally important for the countries of the region. Other models of potential economic growth and political stability are mostly often based on strategies that have less tolerance towards democracy and the rule of law. Reforms must be taken seriously and implemented. The completion of the accession processes of the Western Balkan countries is part of a new narrative on the purpose and functioning of the EU enlargement, but it also represents the peace project of the European Union as a community of stable and successful democracies.
Migjen Krasniqi Pristina, Kosovo Living in a region that has historically been unstable, certainly makes you reď€‚ect on the past , present and future events. This becomes more evident, when you are engaged in civil society organizations, interested in political developments, implying your interest in contributing to your country and region, the interest is even greater. Additionally, being a Youth Reconciliation Ambassador of Western Balkans, awarded years ago in Belgrade while participating in a program, makes me even more devoted to the development of events in the Balkans, challenges, problems, tensions, but also the potential that it has. In my opinion, the greatest challenge in the Balkans remains dealing with the past, thus the process of reconciliation. I am more convicted of this fact, since I was involved and worked , a with Center for Research, Documentation and Publication, an NGO that focused on this area. Now, I am aware how important this processes is countries that have had an armed conď€‚ict or war between them to build a future together. People's losses, material damages, almost unmanageable psychological and emotional damages, are not easily passed. They remain there, and have an effect in daily social and political lives. As a result, all the mechanisms need to be involved to achieve this reconciliation process, but above all, the will and courage of the parties involved is crucial. In order to achieve such process, besides governmental mechanisms, non-governmental organizations need to be involved and can make a major contribution to improve the relationships. For example, cultural, artistic projects, various exchanges, visits to each other, travel, are the some ways that help young people pass the psychic barriers that have been created for years, from what was transmitted during their growth.
Therefore, I always try to show the experience from my visit to Belgrade to the friends in Kosovo, and tell them that the propaganda is not true.. And believe me ... it had an effect! Some of them have visited Belgrade just for curiosity, and have gone to Exit festival, just like many from Belgrade have come for Dokufest in Prizren. Moreover, another point to be considered is the education system , and the the history we learn! In various encounters with participants from all Balkan states, when we were expressing our thoughts and attitudes on certain issues (always constructively, as a confrontation to understand one another's views), some had experienced, and some just learned. When we talked to one another for a certain fact, "Who did this, who taught you this untrue?", The answer often was "We have learned it in school, that's the truth," insisting on our beliefs, but also stepping down from the opposite verses we heard from each other. In a way, thinking of the possibility of misuse of historical facts. Therefore, I remember that we have come up with a conclusion that needs to be work to persuade our countries that one day we should create a group of scientists of history, that would work on compiling the historical facts which show the events as they happened, for young generations to understand better and not be inuenced by one sided stories. If Bosniacs, Croats and Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Montenegrins, Serbs and Albanians in Montenegro; Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo; Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia; Serbs and Albanians in Serbia; grow with the beliefs learned from historical documents which portray different versions, stating only one side of the story and always refereeing to the others as the “bad guys” , then how can we claim peace and regional progress? Undoubtedly the guilty one exists, somebody more than the other, but the courage to jointly nd, condemn, and move forward, will be the only way towards a prosperous Balkans with accession to European Union.
Therefore, as a young person from the Balkans, I want to point out â€œmy dear peoples of Balkans, our peers around the world are planning on how to visit Mars and buy plots there, while we are here applying for a visa to go to Bosnia (this is why it's the only place in the Balkans that I have ever seen, and among the fewest in Europe)â€?. To enter Serbia, Kosovars on the border need to change their car plates, or a foreigner if he ď€ rst entered Kosovo and has a stamp on the passport, cannot enter Serbia. In the middle of Skopje there are separate neighborhoods of Albanians and Macedonians (just like we almost come from different planets). Do you understand how much regress we always note that we deal with such stupid things? Do you understand that none of these is an opportunity for economic, social and cultural development? Do you know that these are homey things in the era of globalization we are living in? And most of all, do you know it was an accident where we were born? I could be Macedonian, Serbian, Chinese, or Brazilian. What we were born is an accident and not in our hands, what we are and what we do is completely our choice, so choose the best for ourselves, places and not become victims of separating policies that do not offer any kind of welfare for our lives, nor will they ever take us anywhere. Thus, let us accept one another and work towards a better future for us all.
Nevena Dimovska Bitola, Macedonia Europe had the fall of the Berlin Wall and the uniď€ cation of Germany. For the Balkans, it was the breakup of the SFRY. A period in which was marked the end of the bipolar divison of the world, a period in which new states were formed, and the existing ones, which were part of the federation, became independent. Young and new countries began their struggle for survival. It was the beginning of a path that was rocky, with many obstacles, temptations and difď€ cult moments. A path that had to be based on the values of the rule of law, peace, democracy and freedom, free market and respect of human rights. These are the European values that the Western Balkans countries have to strive for. Because, history tells us that the Western Balkans is a well known region where instabillity and the possbility of war occur. In a place where riots rule, corruption, criminal and everything destructive are common. Perhaps the European Union knew what it was getting into and decided to give a hand to the Western Balkan countries. But whether the Western Balkan countries will accept the given opportunity, depends on the goal they set before the start of the path. Will they live in the past or write a new European history?!
After the breakup of the SFRY, after the appeasing of euphoric nationalisms and ovecroming the problems caused by the dissolution of the federations, began the processes of transition in all sphefers of social life. International integration was a top political goal for most of the leaders of the former socialist countries. Regarding the economy, the transition from a socialist planned economy into market-oriented, was the most serious transformation that had to be completed. The political achievements of the former socialist countries largerly depended on the way in which economic reforms were carried out. Today, we can conclude that one part of the countries have managed to make the transition, other countries are still coping with it, and are near the end, while other are wandering through post-social corners, trying to catch up with the rest of the European countries. Regarding the last group, without a doubt, we can conclude that all the countries from the Western Balkans can be placed here. Evidently, this transition process was not an easy challenge for young countries. The Balkan countries remained ultimately in the process of democratic consolidation. Today, children's diseases caused by post-socialist transtion can still be felt in this part of Europe. But it seems that the end is near. The wars ended, and it is created a new political image of the Balkan. The victims were big. So were the aims. Nationalism, interethnic conď€‚icts, political crisis have all left a mark on the development and European integration process in the Western Balkans.
Balkan countries should have pluralism and unity and be like swarm of bees: many bees and only one ight. But how can be made that ight? Perhaps it would be best to set goals for ying? Euro-integration will remain one of the main priorities and goals. We are all eager fo different values, for European standards, a stable economy, a perspective for young people. Enough with the divisions, disputes, conicts. Today, when Europe in true sense began to spread to the Western Balkans, a thorough and long-term plan should be considered for future steps. Monnet, who is considered as one of the founding fathers of the European Union, once said: "We do not unite the nations, we bring the nations together". So, it is no wonder that for the world, the European Union is a model of solidarity, security and political cooperation. The doors remain open, and the desire of the Balkan people and the elites for integration is great. However, the goal will be achieved when the Balkans will be integrated into the EU. It will be proof that the period of preoccup tion with the transition is nally completed. The main political goals, experienced as top national, ie state interests, will be largerly completed. Membership in NATO and the EU will mean end of the political transitions. This will also mean end for the reforms in the economy, embodied in the process of stabillization, liberalization and privatization. The purpose of this work is to remind us of the road that was walked and the sacrice it was made. There are still many challenges for the citizens of the Western Balkans. There will be difcult moments and great temptations. But when it manages to sprout like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, and leave behind all wars, nationalism and entire former system, I am convinced that he Balkan will manage to deal with all the crisis and challenges it faces at the moment, and I believe that we will all step together into the future and into new common perspectives, because Europe is not Europe without the Balkan and there is no secure and stable Europe without safe and stable Balkan. It depends on us! The choice is ours.
Darko Savovic Podgorica, Montenegro
To understand and elaborate perplexed political and excistencial situation that is present throughout whole Balkan and try to imagine its unpredictable future, we have to go back into the past and take into consideration every impactful moment that occurred. Temporal retro gradation is an important and useful skill that I had a chance to fully witness during my last semester, which I had spent at University of Missouri on a US State of Departments' fully-covered, onesemester scholarship called UGRAD, given yearly to only 2 Montenegrin undergraduate students. In our recent past we have had 2 Balkan wars, 2 World Wars, civil war on territories around us, change from Socialism to Capitalism and many smaller events that shaped our mentality, our thinking and our future. Challenges and opportunities, that will occur in next 20 years, and have a major impact on the future of Western Balkan will be inuenced by the winds that are blowing from both West and East, just as in the past before. While our “Domestic winds”, which are supposed to be a crucial factor, are losing their strength and giving up under the outside pressure. Western transatlantic inuence has been the strongest factor on the Western Balkans since the beginning of 90s and the fall of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. With that kept in mind, it is completely natural to expect NATO and European Union to be strongest geopolitical “players” present in the near future on this small but important geographical part of the Europe.First bigger challenge for Western Balkan countries will be successful acceptance and adaptation of all EU legislatives that should prepare our countries for joining European Union, which has much bigger level in all aspects in comparison to us. Under “Successful acceptance and adaptation of all EU legislatives”, I mean mostly on one thing: developing country to a level where people will not massively migrate to Western Europe, because their native country will not be able to fulll their needs. I will take example of Croatia which showcases my biggest patriotic fears for Montenegro. Since the 2013, when Croatia had ofcially joined European Union, more than 200,000 people have migrated from Croatia to Ireland, Germany, Austria… It would be foolish to say that I can't understand their decision to leave. Individually, they will have a much bigger chance to prosper than in their native country. But, collectively, for countries it has an enormous impact that is pushing country to its downfall with every single young individual, who decides to go into unknown. European Union is a great opportunity that comes with a lot of challenges, and one of them being a quite realistic migration for every single country on the Western Balkans. One more challenge regarding EU shall be noted, developing agriculture and local smaller economies. With the removal of all import-tariffs for EU products our local producers and smaller companies will have a hard time catching up to the mass-produced EU products, that will be quite logically cheaper than our domestic products. Local producers and companies will have to be prepared for the big inux of cheaper EU products, so each government of non-EU Western Balkan countries is going to have a hard time in equaling prices of EU and domestic products.
NATO comes with both challenges and opportunities. One of the biggest challenges, from my perspective, will be reaching military standards of NATO. In order to do that, each country will have to spend enormous amounts of money, which will be disputable for one specic reason. With the rst big investment, many questions will be asked. Again, I will take Croatia as an example. Croats are planning to renew their aircraft with the purchase of 30 year-old Israel's F-16s, which have already been retired by Israel's Air Force, for a staggering $500 million. Budget of other Western Balkan countries will not be much better than Croatian, so similar deals should be expected for all other countries. Let's face a fact that majority of citizens would rather see those $500 million going into agriculture, education, especially medicine… Government that makes a deal like this, will have a hard time explaining it to its voters and other citizens, which is best for every normal and independent NGO and opposition. They will say the same thing as I did. On the other side, I see peace as an opportunity that comes with NATO. But not Cold War-like peace that is present now, because of the Russia-NATO relations. Peace without sanctions, which gives everyone a chance to develop their economy, as a simplest example
Unfortunately for the Western superpowers, political and nancial Eastern winds have been growing stronger for quite some time already. Russia with its unique and strong political and economical pressure, followed by “soft” geopolitical Chinese move called “One Belt, One Road” have established strong Eastern inuence on this part of the continent. I call it “soft” because Chinese government understood that Western powers will put up a resistance on any political pressure (“strong” in this case) that comes from the East. Their solution for the beginning of Chinese global domination is “One Belt, One Road”, unique initiative that is focused on large amounts of investments for smaller economies, with that avoiding any negative political connotation that can result in Western resistance. Russian inuence on this part of Europe is historical and its rise is completely expected, with NATO expanding on Western Balkan. Although not seeing Russia as a great economic opportunity is a big mistake. With their natural gas and other resources they are a great trading partner that can offer you better deals than other countries. It is also to be noted that Russia has started using more economic than political pressure, as they saw China's “soft” tactic to work. Countries on the Western Balkan are individually too small, which makes them quite irrelevant on the global scale, so making an economy-enemy to any side in the world is a mistake. So in my opinion enormous challenge and opportunity is Russia. I have already elaborated why they are opportunity in economy terms. On the other side, challenge is keeping a satisfactory relations with both USA, as a clear leader of NATO, and Russia. It is clear that next 20 years for Western Balkan will be shaped mostly by the outside inuence. Both West and East will try to gain as much advantage on this part of Europe, which historically hasn't proven to be a good thing for all of us, as both sides put their need for global domination before our prosperity, although no one would admit that of course. NATO and EU on one side, while Russia and China, individually, are trying to spread their domain and inuence in two different ways.
Irma Handabaka Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina One of the biggest challenges most West Balkan countries face is the emigration or leaving of a large number of young population able to work. The biggest reason young people decide to do so is mainly of economic nature. Higher salaries, better quality of life, nding jobs quickly, better opportunities for professional advancement and a safer future are just some of them. Germany, Slovenia and Austria are some of the destinations most often chosen by emigrants. By opening the market, these countries gained cheap labor for elds where they lack workers, as well as experts in different areas without investing a penny in their education. This also represents one of the major problems of the Balkan countries; apart from losing young work force, these countries also lose experts in various elds, especially in healthcare and education. This problem has been discussed a lot over the last couple of years, but concrete steps for stopping this trend have not been taken. An indicator of this is also the fact that Serbia is the only country in the region that made signicant progress in adopting the necessary politics to solve this problem, mainly by adopting a youth strategy which envisions strategic goals to be achieved in the period of 2015-2025 in order to reduce youth unemployment as well as by including problems and education of the youth in the government's priorities. As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is important to point out that complete data on the total number of people who leave B&H every year doesn't exist, because there is no legal obligation to cancel permanent residence. The only data available is that provided by the Agency for Identication Documents, Registers and Data Exchange of Bosnia and Herzegovina (IDDEEA) on the total number of persons that have cancel their residence from the registry of permanent residence and habitual residence of B&H citizens in order to emigrate to other countries. According to their data, 4.270 people had cancelled residence in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2017. However, according to the ofcial data of the Union for Sustainable Return and Integrations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since 2013 until October 2017, 151, 101 people have left the country.
According to the result of the United Nations report titled “World Population Prospects” from 2017, population in the Balkan countries will continue to decline. Countries which will lead the way in the declining of the population are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. According to the results of the report, there were 3,51 million inhabitants in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2017, while there will be 3,40 million in 2030. The population of Croatia of 4,19 million in the same year, will experience a sudden drop to 3,90 million, while the population of Serbia will fall from 8,79 million to 8,35 million by 2030. Possible solutions Adopting national youth strategies which will set priorities and goals aimed at solving the problems young people face in Western Balkan countries constitute the rst step in nding a solution for young people's exodus. Investments in young people through various programs and projects, modernization of the educational system, encouraging mobility, giving incentives for self-employment and support for starting of own businesses, tax benets and one-time help to young married couples when buying real-estate, increasing salaries and providing opportunities to young experts for professional advancement represent just some of the ways reducing youth emigration can be impacted. One thing is certain, if this trend isn't stopped soon, many Balkan countries could soon become countries of old people.
Dimitrov Michael Soa, Bulgaria Looking towards the future of the region beyond the strategic planning horizon, is a challenge by itself. It requires a clear denition of the main factors inuencing the situation, along with the variables that predetermine their development. Only in this way an opportunity arises, to understand which possible and probable political outcomes may divert the region to one or another sequence of events. The following imposition of the axiological perspective would bring to the surface what is desired and what is not, which are the challenges and the opportunities, as well as how to achievethe maximum value result. Despite the complexity of the politics as the art of the possible, we should perceive its foundations as aimed toward the common benet, stability and development. The rst main factor for the future of the Western Balkans is related to the geographical distribution of the Albanian and Serb ethnic groups in the region, along with the historical events that led to the formation of the observed situation. In this respect, of major importance is the question, to which principle of international law would be given priority – the right to self-determination or the inviolability of borders. The answer to this question holds to a great extent the future that can be anticipated for the region. Furthermore, in this regard, of extreme importance is how the right to selfdetermination will be understood – should it remain in effect, if the respective ethnic group already has its own statehood? In case the inviolability of the borders is ignored, the region will inevitably face the impossibility to put under control the conict potential within its boundaries, which may result in the outbreak of multiple armed clashes, including such used as a tool by neighboring regional powers, perceiving one or another ethno-religious community as a conduit to its own geopolitical interests. Another important factor on which depends the future of the Western Balkans is the approach that will be chosen by the countries of the region in regards of ensuring their societal security. The “image” that is being created within the societies about their own history, present and future predetermines the overall course of the political process and therefore affects their resilience, perceptions of security and national goals. The successful implementation of the political-civic principle of nation development is the only guarantor of stability. On the contrary, a return to the ethnocultural principle will cause a rising tensions within all countries of the region and beyond. The Western Balkans are intersected by major transport axes – the Pan-European Corridor №10 and the river artery Rotterdam-Rhine-Main-Danube. In addition, there are important energy projects that, if implemented, will affect the European energy security as a whole – the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline along with the Southern Gas Corridor will ensure diversication of natural gassupply and despite being long abandoned, the idea of an oil pipeline from the Black Sea to the Adriatic coast is viable and has a geostrategic importance. Nevertheless, the signicance of the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans is not as much related to economy, as to the “completion” of united Europe and overcoming one of the historically established dividing lines on the continent, that has existed in various forms since 1054. The above factors have particular impact on the areas with the highest conict potential in the region – Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are interconnected and the deterioration of the situation in one of these countries undoubtedly will have similar effect on the others. In the event of severe destabilizationof the region, a risk would arise about Vojvodina and other zones with complex ethnic composition.
As a result of the above, three general scenarios about the future of the Western Balkans in 20 years can be outlined: 1. “Stability and Prosperity”: By 2038, all countries in the region are integrated in EU and NATO. This leads to an increase of the foreign direct investment. Gradually, the conict potential in the Western Balkans decreases. The societies of the region achieve a level of economic prosperity unmatched by anything of their past. 2. “Stagnation”: Toward 2038, only Macedonia had joined NATO as early as 2020. No further progress is made throughout the region afterwards, the Euro-Atlantic integration processes are hampered. No country in the region has joined the EU. The region remains vulnerable to interventions of countries external to the region and hostile to the Euro-Atlantic values. The negative inuence stemming from this situation extends far beyond the borders of the Western Balkans. 3. “Balkan War”: By 2038, EU and NATO have had no new members in the region. The conicts within the societies of the Western Balkan countries, as well as between them, are exacerbated. Subversive and sabotage activities are supported by parties, willing the Western Balkans to remain outside the EU and NATO. Bosnia and Herzegovina collapses as a result of Republika Srpska's declaration of independence, the Association of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo announces its accession to Serbia, meanwhile the Russian Federation has stepped up its military presence in Nis and threatens to intervene in case of support for the territorial integrity of Kosovo by the armed forces of the United States, based in Camp Bondsteel. Macedonian municipalities with predominantly ethnic Albanian population declare their accession to Albania. The situation in the region spirals out of control and threatens to involve neighboring countries, already part of the EU and NATO. The results are signicant migratory ows, damage to the existing infrastructure, limited opportunities for economic development for decades ahead.
We can conclude that the major challenge to the Western Balkans is how to direct the sequence of events towards the rst scenario, as it contains the opportunities for economic well-being, reconciliation and stability. This requires increased cooperation between the US and the EU on the integration of the region. The priorities outlined in the Atlantic Council's report “Balkans Forward: A New US Strategy for the Region” and the Strategy for “A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans”, set the general framework for the process of overcoming the tensions in the region. Another priority arises by the need to stop the processes of divergence between the “Old Europe” and Washington. The Three Seas Initiative should avoid any negative effect on the unity of the EU. The Union cannot cope with the challenges of the Western Balkans integration by itself, and an eventual failure will leave the region vulnerable to the interests of the Russian Federation, People's Republic of China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The proliferation of radicalism and the networks of organized crime would affect the security not only of the countries by the region. The contemporary situation requires more than ever a strong transatlantic bond, withoutignoring the need of fair sharing of the burden of collective security, but underlining that the future of the Western Balkans, Europe and even the world depends on the ability of the nations on both sides of the Atlantic to adhere to the motto of the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is also the national motto of the country – UNITED WE STAND STRONG!
Ivana Vasic Brod, Bosnia and Herzegovina European Union institutions have dened the Western Balkans as an area in the Balkans that includes non-EU countries. The region includes: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, Albania and de facto state Kosovo. Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia are candidate countries, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates, although Kosovo is the rst country whose Stabilization and Association Agreement has not been ratied in each individual EU member state. The other ve countries are progressing slowly in their path to the EU. Insufciently fast EU enlargement process could lead to negative scenarios that would jeopardize the process of democratization and economic development, although recently the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Federica Mogerini stated that the Western Balkans is part of the future of the EU. The question is what the EU will be like when the countries of the Western Balkans achieve the conditions for entry because we are all witnesses of the problems that the EU faces for some time: a migrant crisis, a negative natural increase, Brexit, a possible Grexit, a relationship with the United States, a problem of democratic decit ... Will the EU solve these problems and how, remains to be seen, but the question arises also is the EU ready for new enlargements. How will the EU work in all of this, and what is even more important is whether the "unnished states" of the Western Balkans are ready to enter in the EU. Serbia and Montenegro in 2005 concluded that they were ready for accession negotiations, as they advanced politically and economically after the fall of Milosevic's regime. However, the European Commission then demanded the practical application of the rule of law, that is, that countries solve war crimes cases, reform the judiciary, the police and security services, and achieve visible results in the ght against crime and corruption. The Commission also noted that the freedom of the media in both countries was limited. Montenegro is not a member of the EU today, but it is a NATO member, which may sound strange, but the geopolitical position of Montenegro and access to the Adriatic Sea is really important for NATO, and Montenegro is probably the closest EU country to the Western Balkans. EU integration is the foreign policy priority of the Serbian government, although it's policy towards the EU in the media and in the West is called "sitting on two chairs". At the time of the Ukrainian crisis, Serbia continued Euro integration, but refused to impose sanctions on Russia that violated its relationship with the EU. When the Serbian Progressive Party came to power, it began to control the extreme right in Serbia and to suppress its strong character that opposes dialogue with Kosovo and attempts to resolve this crisis, co-operation with NATO and the Hague Tribunal and the promotion of liberal values, most often the LGBT community , so there is a possibility that in the future Serbia will calm down tensions over Kosovo and make signicant progress in respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The construction of Kosovo as a de facto country is followed by three major international actors, such as the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. Kosovo's independence is blocked by Serbia, with strong international support from Russia in the UN Security Council. However, it is increasingly pushing Kosovo towards Albania because Pristina and Tirana reached an agreement in September 2017 on a joint auxiliary fund for Kosovo's diplomatic representation in Europe. The governments of Kosovo and Albania are working to establish a common economic and energy market, and Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama said that Kosovo and Albania would unite if Brussels did not open the way to Pristina for EU integration.
Among all the countries of the Western Balkans, Macedonia during the 1990s scored with good results in a democratic transition, however, the unsettled foreign policy issue regarding the name of the state and the Greek blockade of the Euro-Atlantic process put the former Yugoslav republic in some kind of international stagnation. After the armed conicts in Kumanovo in 2015, the political crisis in the country could have grown into conicts and lead to the removal of power by violent means, as Moscow believes that the West supports the "colored revolutions" in Macedonia. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a type of protectorate with the Ofce of the High Representative of the international community who has the right of veto if he considers that the Dayton Peace Agreement is not being implemented. Bosnia and Herzegovina is lagging behind for Kosovo in the process of European integration. Brussels believes that Bosnia and Herzegovina must put on the top of its priorities the ght against corruption and organized crime, as well as reform of the judiciary, while the two biggest problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina are that in all three constituent nations the greatest popularity is played by parties that lead exclusively nationalist and populist politics and separatist the aspirations of the Republic of Srpska.
All these countries have a problem with the rule of human rights, corruption, media freedom, and poor governance at the national level. Serbia has no dened border with Kosovo, nor with Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the issue of the Constitution is a constant problem. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a dysfunctional state, in Macedonia the slowness of Euro-Atlantic integration has also reected on the internal political crisis, Kosovo has poorly developed institutions. The international blockade of Serbia in Kosovo could affect the rise of nationalism and the increase in interethnic tensions in Kosovo in the future. In all of their territories, all these countries have had armed conicts and they have unsolved problems from the past and will hardly advance in the future if they do not begin to solve internal problems and relations with neighboring countries. An important factor is that Moscow is strongly opposed to the NATO enlargement to these countries, which further distances them from the EU. Nevertheless, if the Western Balkans remains outside the EU, there is a possibility that undemocratic political regimes will develop in the future, such as those of the 1990s, which in their nature bear all those risks from the fatal consequences that this region has already undergone. People say that the past repeats itself to those who have not learned anything from it, and we seem to be still not ready to start learning from mistakes in order to correct them in the future. There are many politicians today in the Western Balkans, but statesmen are very few, because individuals enter politics selshly, trying to use the state for their own purposes and with such a government it is difcult for a country to make progress in the future. If negotiations with the EU continue, but without signicant shifts in the coming years, it will become clear to everyone that the possibility of joining the EU is very low, and the countries of the Western Balkans would be condemned to a downturn in this situation. Although many people seem to be scary this fact, the Western Balkan countries are probably still too weak to turn themselves around and succeed in the future without the help of other countries.
Radovan Spiridonov Skopje, Macedonia I was born in the same year when Google was founded, 1998. Then, Titanic dominated the Oscars, Europeans agreed on the common currency of the Euro, pretty much everyone had a Nokia 6120, "Harry Potter" made its world debut, after many years of troubles in Northern Ireland both sides agree to the Good Friday peace agreement and Britney Spears was just getting starting. And yes, the news were dominated by troubling reports of the Balkan conicts and dreadful prognoses for the future of the region. Seems like I am writing about 'the age of dinosaurs' and in many respects, it truly is a world much different to ours in 2018. Except in one respect. Still after 20 years we are having the same talks on the Balkan matters. Time and time again old traumas are rising, the old animosities are nurtured, somehow, we never really achieved reconciliation by. The new countries have also have issues with corruption and economic crises, some of their leaders have embraced somewhat authoritarian methods, taking advantage of the legacy of the conicts in order to turn away popular anger from corruption and economic stagnation. My intention is not to repeat our systemic problems time and time again, that not only identify the issues that youth in our region face, but also to propose concrete and creative solutions that are identied by me and that can be implemented by the local, regional and EU policymakers. But in order to propose effective policy measures we are obliged to try to understand our complex region. A key feature of the Balkans is that for the greatest part of their history the peoples inhabiting the peninsula have not been the masters of their destinies. The inuence of the external powers over the region was always present. Also, there were and still are tendencies in Europe for stereotypisation of the region as a backward and barbaric, the so called Wild East of Europe.
If you walk around in any city across the Western Balkan you would see tons of posters promoting classes in foreign languages, to put yourself on a fast track for getting out from this ‘cursed land’. The drain is becoming a systematic problematic for the growth of our countries. To put in plain language, we are having less and less people. The silent answer of the trapped generation. The kids whose potential cannot be accomplished in their own homes. With so few opportunities at home, young people are moving abroad, worsening the region’s long-term economic prospects. As fresh talent decamps for Western Europe, the United States, or oil-rich Persian Gulf countries, the massive brain drain puts their struggling countries on even more uneven footing, with populations increasingly made up of people less educated or elderly. Those who remain are often frustrated and angry. Many initiatives have been proposed to combat the Brain Drain issue, talks on how to stop the process. But, in my view this is an irevisable process. Brain drain is one of the earliest phenomena associated with globalization, which has signicant adverse effects at the local level. The Western Balkans will most likely remain an exporter of smart, educated people for years to come. The Western Balkan countries spend scarce resources educating doctors, engineers and scientists, in the hope that they will become engines of prosperity. Then we watch with dismay as they migrate to the West, taking with them the promise of their talent. However, I view this phenomenon as one of the greatest opportunities forward for our region, if done properly and with careful planning. Reverse brain drain is a form of brain drain where human capital moves in reverse from a more developed country to a less developed country which is starting to develop. These migrants may accumulate savings, also known as remittances, and develop skills overseas that can be used in their home country. Brain drain can occur when scientists, engineers, or other intellectuals migrate to a more developed country to learn in its universities, perform research, or gain working experience in areas where education and employment opportunities are limited in their home country. These professionals then return to their home country after several years of experience to start a related business, teach in a university, or work for a multi-national in their home country. To make this work, we must believe in people. Human beings – their ideas, innovations, dreams, and connections – are the capital of the future. In this sense, the “brain regain” is not so much an achievement in itself as it is a leading indicator of development, because where great minds go today, great things will happen tomorrow. We as a region should use the opportunities of scientic and professional cooperation with more developed European countries. Being granted the opportunity to learn and work in the most advanced world countries we should you this a gift. Gift to put us on a fast track by receiving the much-needed skills for the new industries and digital economy. It also enables some people to have different prospective of their own lives. The generation of the late 1990s, of which I belong is the next in line to decide. Whatever we would give up and take that speed up course in advanced German, pack our bags and leave 'for good' or instead, we would use the opportunities given to us by the European family, become learned and skillful, so we could be a stable sustainable future here, at home.
I see a partnership between the youth NGOs and the governmental institutions as a great way of tackling the possibilities of brain gain, instead on brain drain. By providing strategies for the stimulating the return and helping people who have come back adapt easily and work in the economy we can boost our standard of living. Also, people who have lived for some time in the Western European countries get a ď€ rst-hand experience of what is like to live in a functioning democracy. When the signiď€ cant part of the intellectuals put forward the European values our society would move further away from the authoritarian tendencies and the democratic principles would be easier to adopt. Democratization is a process which never ends. So, we could stimulate youth cooperation and exchange between the Western Balkan countries and the more advanced North European countries. The youth is eager to travel, share and experience different cultures and ideas. If we could help Western Balkan youth to travel more, and make Europe it's home, soon the democratic principles would be adopted and shared by the local populations. If we stimulate workshops, conferences and trips between the two regions, the young people would be in a position to learn and adopt the good sides of the EU, so we would be the drivers of change in our region. EU membership remains the best way to promote reform and cooperation in the region. The EU is based on the principles of pooled sovereignty and open borders. As the EU's founders understood, this model represents the best hope for overcoming the fears and hatreds that led Europe to twice tear itself apart. What's more, aspiring members have to meet EU standards on democratic governance, the rule of law, the protection of human rights, and marketoriented economic policies. Our troubled past, for which we are not always to blame, combined with a permanent cycle of economic crisis have made the youth apathic and absent from the political arena. As Louis XIV famously said: 'I am the State', the youth of the Western Balkan region should start thinking of themselves as the drivers of change, the state works for them and answers to them. It is up to the young generation to take up the responsibly of putting and end of the vicious cycle in which our region is trapped once and forever. The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire Western Balkan region. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No part in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people.
Milica Djukanovic Niksic, Montenegro “The Balkans is itself a problem and ideal. (...) For the people of the Balkans, without distinction, it is the ultimate concept from which all other concepts are performed’ are words written by Isidora Sekulic in The Notes of a Balkanophile, for whom the Balkans was eternal inspiration. The Balkans inspires, just as it is synonymous with stereotypes. The foreign (Western) world perceives the Balkans in a different way. This way of “understanding” is associated with “fears of the apocalyptic future”, perception of the Balkans as “black hole” of Europe or its “Wild West”. The history of the Balkan relations (often accompanied by historical revisionism), which, in one part (or even much) burdens the present of people in this place, is deeply engraved in the consciousness of the Western societies, as well as in the Balkan collective memory. For a comprehensive analysis of the heterogeneous Balkan climate, accompanied by historical trauma and misunderstanding, it is certainly necessary to take into account historical, political, cultural, geopolitical factors. At the end of the last decade of the 20th century, after the end of the process of disintegration of Yugoslavia, the countries that were in its composition (with the exception of Slovenia), together with Albania, would receive a common, geopolitical name “Western Balkans”, while their new foreign policy at that time primarily involved partnership with the United States of America. After 2000, these countries turn to European and Euro-Atlantic integrations, with the exception of Serbia’s withdrawal from future membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Today, the Western Balkans is recognized as a place whose stability is crucial for the stability of the European Union. An important step taken by the EU in this direction is the European Commission’s Strategy for “A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans”, which, among other things, designed 2025 as a possible date for a new enlargement of the community, which means that, in the perspective, Montenegro and Serbia, as the only countries that are in the process of accession negotiations, should complete the process. However, the thing that could, to a certain extent, discourage the EU optimists are the conclusions from the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Soa. Namely, the term “enlargement” (and related with that 2025) is not mentioned in any of the conclusions or accompanying documents of the Summit. Instead of that, words that are used are enhanced cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, linking at the human and digital level. Regarding this, the following question is: is the economic partnership more important to the European Union than the political stability of the Western Balkan countries? The region of the Western Balkans needs to be seen in the context of a wider, regional and global environment. This primarily refers to the relationship between the East and the West, which can have a major impact on the Balkan states. Having in mind the intensied interests of the great powers in the Balkans, it is not surprising the new New York Times thesis that the Balkans become and could be a test area in the new cold war against Russia, all as a consequence of the situation in Syria and on the global scene. Russian inuence on the Western Balkans does not fall of, while its eventual strengthening could increase ethnic aspirations. Here we come to a problem that is characteristic not only for the Balkan states, which is nationalism and extreme nationalism. This is witnessed by the presence of not a small number of extreme right-wing groups, neo-fascist, neoNazi groups that are not only challenge for the normalization of interstate relations in the Balkans, but also, hiding under anti-fascism, oppose the process European and Euro-Atlantic integrations. In addition to these non-state structures, the thing that must be noticed is some kind of “fascist behavior” of the political elites of certain Balkan states and the “ourishing” of historical revisionism. There is also a danger of a potential change of the borders in the Balkans. That is why it is necessary to make great efforts to revitalize anti-fascism in order to incorporate anti-fascist values and ideas into the foundations of societies and in consciousness of future generations. Neuralgic points’, regarding the internal relations, but also the state borders in the region are Bosnia and Hercegovina and Kosovo, with the risk of transmitting tensions and opening border issues in other parts of the region, without any possibility of nding solution in the near future. In other words, procrastinating consensus on fundamental issues, raises the danger for a longer period of time, with the risk of conict escalation. Therefore, a strong political will is needed in order to create a compromise over the most sensitive regional issues in the near future. Likewise, from countries that have not fully dened their foreign policy goals and which are implementing a certain type of policy of non-alignment at the moment, in the future, they will be asked to clearly identify and set themselves on the political scene.
In addition to this, the great challenge that the Western Balkan countries face, which will continue in the coming decades is the disappearance of the population, brain drain. Negative natural increase and more frequent migrations represent a major problem in this region. Taking into account the noticeable trend of falling birth rates and the negative balance of migration of the population with foreign countries, it can be noted that in the future period, the Balkan countries could remain without signicant part of the population. The solution of this problem, in addition to membership in regional organizations, can be seen in better linking and enhancing the cooperation of the western Balkan countries, but also in the initiatives, legal and other regulations within the states. In terms of economics, China’s inuence on the countries of the Western Balkans, as well as on the EU member states, will be getting stronger. In this way, China also wants to inuence political processes, with the aim of realization its major economic project (”Belt and Road Initiative”). Therefore, there is a growing competition between the United States and China, both in terms of technology and geopolitical domination in the Balkans and Europe. Of course, there is a growing inuence from the region of Asia Minor. So, in recent times, Turkey has been trying to restore its political and economic presence in these areas, linking it rst with the Balkan Muslim population, imposing itself as an alternative to the process of European integrations. However, it is not expected that in the near future Turkey will provide itself with a signicant inuence on political events in the Western Balkans. “The Balkans is like a volcano, you never know when the eruption will expel the lava and where...” Thus, at the beginning of the 1990s, Kucan described this unstable area, subject to constant transitions and adaptation. Nevertheless, from today’s perspective, prospects for the future seem signicantly different. In the meantime, major steps have been made towards being close to the most advanced nations and achieving European standards. The countries of the Western Balkans remain a strong commitment to full membership in the community of the most developed European societies, ensuring the connection between the center of Europe (EU) and its periphery. In order to achieve strategic foreign policy goals, the Balkans must be debunked and political fragmentation should be prevented. For this reason, regional initiatives are needed with the aim of cooperation and networking of the Balkan people. There are many common challenges that need to be addressed at the regional level in the future, encouraging the atmosphere of community. In doing so, without prejudice to the integration of the countries of the region into NATO and the EU, which are guarantee of stability. Instead of usual prejudices and stereotypes, the Balkans should become synonymous with cooperation, reliability, peace, friendship. Salvation is in Europeanization.
Slobodan Rankovic Belgrade, Serbia Challenges awaiting Western Balkans in 20 years are more or less the same challenges Western Balkans' countries are facing today: the migrant crisis, ethnic intolerance, the strengthening of extreme ideologies as well as Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. What also damages the citizens of Western Balkans' countries is the position of national minorities, low level of democracy and lack of rule of law. All these challenges hinder Western Balkans' countries on their European path. It should be noted that all Western Balkans' countries are striving for membership in European Union and some even for NATO membership. The situation is complicated and difcult, but not hopeless. The countries of Western Balkans must work harder and show a higher degree of mutual understanding and support to each other. Only then Western Balkans' countries can become a full-edged part of European family of nations. Non-governmental organizations, civil society, and above all young people should all take part, besides political elite and political parties, which should be initiators of this process. Young people must be more active in political life, because it targets their own future. All of us have moral obligation to carry this burden by ourselves, including the right to make our own political decisions. However, it is also very important to point out that Balkans' countries are not alone in this difcult task, and can always count on both European Union and every member state individually. European Union has so far shown that it will give Western Balkans' countries all support needed on their European path. Regional reconciliation should be one of the most important goals of the states in Balkans, not only because it is necessary for the purpose of European integration, but also because it is extremely important for the lives of citizens living in this region. During whole 20th century, the situation in Balkans was unstable, especially during last decade. Now we have a chance to leave the past behind, reach out to our neighbors and condemn crimes, no matter which side committed them. The role of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in Hague was necessary. Criminals were convicted, and people from Balkans have a historic chance to move forward together, towards a better future, cooperation and mutual understanding. All initiatives and proposals aimed at reconciliation and interethnic cooperation should be maximally supported and contributed to, in accordance with the possibilities. Concerning defense and security, NATO membership would be the best solution, as it would contribute to security of states in Balkans. In addition to NATO membership, another way and type of cooperation could be a stronger link between the states in this region. This is especially important if we take into consideration the strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism threats. Previously mentioned cooperation needs to be supported and strongly condemn the numerous provocations that stand in its path. Not only they harm this kind of cooperation, they can lead to more serious conicts, which would be tragic. Most states in Balkans are NATO members, some intend to become, and some like Republic of Serbia have excellent cooperation with NATO. This cooperation needs to be even greater, but this will probably be corrected over time. Republic of Serbia signed an IPAP agreement with NATO which brought Serbia closer to this military alliance. Serbia should abandon the policy of military neutrality, in order not to isolate itself in the Balkans, and join NATO in close future.
From all this, we see that Western Balkans' countries have only one option if they want to secure economic and political stability, which is European Union membership. There is no alternative to European Union, because EU is an only guarantor of prosperity to these countries. Regarding security of Western Balkans' countries, the most logical and best solution would be NATO membership, or at the very least, a better, stronger and tighter cooperation with this military alliance, which has to this time intervened countless times worldwide to defend democratic principles, security, putting an end to terrorism. NATO membership is not mandatory, but it's certainly the best path. What's undesirable is the opening of various centers either in Nis or some other city, which could jeopardize regional stability. Without a genuine desire for reconciliation, without the desire for reforms, the European path will be long and difcult. All countries in Western Balkans must work together, just as all the parties in the political life of each country have to work together. The possibilities of countries in Western Balkans are: 1. Countries of Western Balkans will not be EU members, they will continually increase ethnic tensions, provocations will come from all sides, and these states will not be able to properly respond to them. Instead of resolving some territorial issues, we will have frozen conicts until the rst following war. Instead of democratic and parliamentary states, we will have authoritarian states in which the majority will be persecuted by the minority. 2. All countries of Western Balkans will be members of European Union and NATO. Cooperation and understanding will replace conicts and tensions. All territorial issues will be resolved, with as much acceptable solutions for all stakeholders as possible. The regimes of all countries will be truly parliamentary and democratic. We will have a state of equal citizens, regardless of their racial, religious or ethnic afliation. Therefore, the challenges are numerous, and there are only two possibilities. The countries of the Western Balkans will remain behind or become regulated European countries. Only certain thing is that citizens themselves will decide on their future and make a choice between these two possibilities. External factors such as the EU and NATO can provide their unselsh support, but they cannot decide for us, we have to do this by ourselves.
Dea Morina Gjakove, Kosovo
The Balkans, a region named after its Mountain range has ironically evolved from its geographical and gurative meaning, as centuries of conict have left marks on its consisting countries which willingly dene their own identities by differing themselves by ethnicity, religion, language and culture thus, cut loose of their gurative association with consecutiveness. To gain back the gurative meaning of the mountain range, these Western Balkans countries have to pledge to work on their challenges together, this way boost competitiveness by realizing stability and prosperity in the region and build a brighter future for the next generations with the ultimate goal being accession into the European Union. The Balkans has generally been known as one of the most bothered regions of the European continent. Events such as the Balkan Wars and conicts in the 90's have left a permanent mark on the region, especially in the Western Balkans or known otherwise as Adriatic Europe. Alongside the above mentioned events that have brought worry into the region, is the region's economic competitiveness, which, explained otherwise is a measurement of economic prosperity. As such, future economic development and the well-being of citizens in Western Balkans increasingly depend on greater economic competitiveness. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, the economies of the Western Balkans are among the least competitive in Europe. Out of the four measured in the report, Albania ranks at 75 which is the highest and is closely followed by Montenegro at 77 and Serbia following it at 78, last while ranking among the lowest is Bosnia and Herzegovina at 103. To be globally competitive an integrated policy approach is needed, one that assesses these countries progress towards their development goals. As the economies of the Western Balkans continue to struggle with low growth rates and high levels of unemployment, in addition they also have not recovered from previous crisis impacts, such as: the contraction of foreign credit to local banks, the sharp decline in FDI(Foreign Direct Investment) inows, and the decrease in exports. The European Union, which is a major destination for Western Balkans and their exports, is experiencing a downfall on its growth as well. Hence, in Europe, hesitation that further enlargement can change the course to growth has been intensied due to issues such as the decision of the United Kingdom to exit the EU, political tensions in Turkey, the continuing crisis in Greece and the refugee crisis. All these contributing to the debate about the future of the EU and the potential impact on states that are on the path to accession. But the Western Balkan countries continue to pursue their intentions for integration with the EU, with several countries having opened new chapters. Thus, they want to prove that their integration should not be misunderstood as simple elimination of borders, which would enable free movement towards more prosperous countries of Europe. Their integration should be understood as incorporation as equals and they want to be seen as the secret ingredient that will contribute well to the growth rate and as such this ambitious transition process in the Balkans brings with it a number of challenges:
To improve their chances of EU accession and secure their citizens a brighter future, one of the key priorities these countries need to discuss are the problems facing their youth, who represent the future. The challenges the youth faces, even though different from country to country touch the whole region. Youth unemployment is a major issue due to the region's difď€ cult economic situation and the outdated education systems. As such, raising awareness about these challenges and the need for immediate solutions is critical. The EU and its countries have been helping in these areas. Lately, many projects such as the Erasmus+ programme and many other scholarship programs have come to the beneď€ t of the youth of the region. Further crucial changes to be made embrace modernizing the educational systems, promoting exchanges both within the region and with the EU, this way encourage youth entrepreneurship and participation in the civil society. If this goal is reached, then the shared vision for the next twenty years will be prosperous in this aspect. Strengthening the rule of law is another key priority and opportunity for a better future. Attempting to encourage these countries to reduce corruption as part of democracy should be a precondition that would result in strengthening the rule of law. Membership to the European Union, even though it serves as motivation, is not the only motive that keeps these countries working on their weak spots, as international assistance has been welcomed by the region for nearly two decades now. With the expectation that it will have a positive impact on the rule of law, in the region, any international assistance is welcomed owing that it can help make steps forward to the ultimate vision if progress is continuous.
Even though, the challenges are plentiful, Croatia's accession in July 2013 serves as a success story for the other Western Countries that the EU vision is still real for them once they ď€ nally meet the EU's criteria and this way keeps them motivated. The fact that Serbia opened accession negotiations with the EU in 2014 and that Albania was awarded EU candidate status in June 2014 points to the same direction. If we were to analyze this view, the almost two decade long efforts to transform the Western European political systems into functioning democracies and their economies into liberal markets are ď€ nally paying off. While the Western Balkan countries democratic consolidation has been achieved, there are clear differences in the quality of democracy. While in all the Western Balkan countries democratic consolidation has been achieved, there are clear differences in the quality of democracy. Thus, there are still steps to take in order to reach a level of democracy that is appreciated by the EU and their criteria and to complete the next twenty-year vision. Regional reconciliation is another very important opportunity while simultaneously a challenge that if faced would bring better relations among the countries in the region. An investigation on serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances which is a major concern for many of the regions countries is very needed to reconciliation. Of the almost 40, 000 persons who went missing during the 1990s' wars, more than two thirds have been accounted for, however even though this is viewed as an achievement, the passage of time does not let us consider it as so since potential witnesses who may give information about mass graves die or are reluctant to testify. This opportunity for regional reconciliation will have no or little progress if there is an absence of a genuine political dialogue in the region. Contributing to the progress of the matter are also the military and police archives that may hold important information about the missing people but are still left untouched. In conclusion, to gain back the consecutiveness is understood by the mountain range that deď€ nes these countries, Western Balkans have to pledge to work on the youth policies, democracy, economic competitiveness and regional reconciliation and many other challenges together. If the cooperation is adequate and productive, this way boost competitiveness by realizing stability and prosperity in the region and build a brighter future for the next generations to come. Moreover, this will eventually result in accession to the European Union.
Srdjan Banovic Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina After the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, all the newly emerging countries expressed their interest in joining the European Union and set the EU entry as one of the most important goals. On the other hand, there were similar moves from the other side too, for example, at the European Union summit in Thessaloniki in 2003, an unequivocal conclusion was made, saying that the future of this region is in Europe, the European Union. "The EU reiterates its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries. The future of this region is in the EU," the Thessaloniki Declaration. With the rapid integration of Slovenia into the EU from the rest countryes of the former Yugoslavia, the name Western Balkans is formed, which, besides the countries of the former Yugoslavia, without Slovenia, includes Albania. So today Croatia is member state of the European Union and as much as its ofcials and scientists trying to "separate" Croatia from the Western Balkans, it is inextricably linked to this area by its cultural, historical and geographical factors. However, other countries have remained on the path of European integration and entry into the European Union is still ofcially one of the primary interests of these countries. Therefore, to conclude that in the future, this region, depending on the state to the state, will sooner or slower fulll the conditions for joining the European Union. Will the goal of joining the EU be fullled for 25 years, before or perhaps afterwards it can not be known. As we can not even know if there will be an EU then, like what we see now or whether it will exist at all. For example, the elections in France in 2017 could have been fatal for the EU's existence if Marin Le Pen a candidate of the National Front party won the second round of the election. Given its Euro-skepticism, FraExit could be expected. This crisis has happily ended in the EU, but today there are numerous challenges for Europe that do not have internal consensus of its members, issues such as the migrant crisis, the crisis in Ukraine and the threat from Russia and the sanctions to Russia are just some of the problems that the EU is facing and who could potentially be fatal to the community.
Divisions and tendency for disagreements, conicts are the constant characteristics of this region and many types of factors, the elements can easily lead us to the conclusion that it will remain for 25 years, in the future. Historical experiences, cultural-religious elements and geographical factor or relief and position are indicators of these permanent characteristics of the region, the territory covered by the term Western Balkans, a state in it, and societies or nations in those countries. Due to the attempted transition, supported by the EU, both in political and economic terms, but also in terms of the spirit of culture, little has been achieved, especially in the eld of culture. According to the theory of German sociologist and philosopher Ralph Darendorf in order to carry out an effective democratic transition in authoritarian societies, it takes six months to change the political system, 6 years to change the economy, and 60 years to change the spirit of the people and the society. So, neither mathematically since the breakup of Yugoslavia was 60 years nor will it pass in 25 years. Therefore, to conclude, in 25 years targeted democratization of the spirit of the people of the Western Balkans will not be nished, and there will not be break up with the previous characteristics of this region. Historical experience is a very important factor that could show us how the future will look, because certain events in the past have forever entered the mentality of the people of the Western Balkans. And there are a number of historical events that have led to the continued division conicts in this region. The border between the Western and Eastern Roman Empire crossed this region and was on the Drina River. In time of Slavic arrival in this area and the beginning of the christianisation, the region is divided between Romes and Constantinoples sphere of inuence, which resulted with the religious division of the West Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy after the great schism from the 11th century. With the arrival of the Ottomans and the Islamization of the subjugated Balkans new complications and sources of permanent division and instability came. From the division of Christianity to the arrival of the Ottomans and the establishment of the borders with Austria, there has been a touch and boundary between different cultures and civilizations, as well as their mixing.
Touching and mixing of cultures and civilizations leads us to the next factor that is important for foreseeing the future, and that is important for the claim that the essential characteristics of this region will not change. These are cultural and religious factors, culturally apart from Albanians, all the peoples of the Western Balkans are from the Slovene group of peoples and speak similar languages. Looking at this, it seems that there should not be too many complications and divisions between related societies, the religions are coming up here, based on the historical experience of the religious division, they remain insuperable among the peoples of this region, and so it is today. The birth of nationalism in the nineteenth century did not succeed to connect nationality with languague , instead of that the principle of nationality in relation to religious afliation prevailed, which is one of the main causes of marked divisions and disagreements, which is one of the main reasons for the breakup of Yugoslavia and the never-unhearded idea of a nation Yugoslavian. Samuel Huntington in his book "Conict of Civilization" argues that future conicts will be at the level of different civilizations, the world will be divided into several major civilizations whose nucleus will be a religion. It further he is saying that conicts will be on the borders of these civilizations and their touching points, the region of the Western Balkans is divided between the Western, Eastern Orthodox and Islamic civilizations, so this region is touching point between thic civilizations. Contrary arguments to conicts based on religious and cultural diversity are certainly trends of globalization and secularization, but these trends are in great temptation both in the whole world and in the west, where the issues of multiculturalism and migrants have led to an increase in the popularity of right-wing parties, especially in continental Europe. Even in the Western Balkans, the trends of multiculturalism and secularization have not come to life, since all countries, BiH entities, are almost homogeneous, and religious organizations are still very important and inuential factor in these societies. Naturally, the historical experience and the cultural-religious elements are connected and depend largely on the geographical factor. Relief and geographical position contributed to the dynamic development of the history of this area, its division and conict. Since relief and geographical position are constant factors, this gives us the right to think that the division will remain constant and instability. In his book "The Prisoners of Geography", Tim Marshall says that the relief is the basic cause of the division of the Balkans and its fragmentation into small states, high mountain wreaths, a deep river basin in the south and southwest, and large rivers in the north of the Western Balkans are a permanent guarantor of its discord and dissension, as in the past is so today and so will be in the future. Tim Marshall says that the leaders have made the same or similar decisions in history, as brought by political leaders today, which were conditioned by relief, climate, or position. Geographical position is certainly of great importance, because as in the past this region was a crossroads of roads, the crossroads of the east, west, and south, it remained that today too. And because of its favorable position Western Balkans has always been at the forefront of various interests and inuences, the inuences of Rome, Constantinople, Ottoman, Austria, Russia, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and China, waves of their hard power inuences were again accompanied by waves of soft power, which resulted in cultural and religious divisions among the peoples of the Western Balkans. The geographical position will not change, today almost all the world and regional powers have projects that somehow concern this region, the Chinese new silk route encompasses this region, Russia is trying to build a pipeline to connect this region even more energy with it, the United States has the largest military base in Europe located on the territory of the Western Balkans region. This tells us that in the future there will be a multitude of interests, and where exists number of interests there will come to competition, rivalry and conict.
It can not be talked about which questions, when and when there will be a conict of interest, how much the intensity of these conicts will be, which actors will participate precisely in them. One thing is certain that divisions, pluralism of interests and conicts will remain unchanged characteristics of this region for 25 years. It will remain so long as the high chains of the mountains cross the region, large and wide rivers as well, as many religious structures continue to build, and religious leaders and organizations have great inuence in societies, while historical events are interpreted subjectively and while there is a conict of interest in the international community.
Anton Moldovan Cluj-Napoca, Romania Over time, the Balkan region has received different meanings, due to divergent contexts that marked the history of this territory. In this context, a rst reference used to classify and dene the Balkans is initiated from the etymology of the word "Balkans" which means "mountain" or "mountain area", a term used during the Ottoman conquest of the 4th century AD. Also, the term "Balkans" is the Bulgarian name for "Stara Planina / Mount Old", a mountain that extends almost entirely on the territory of Bulgaria to the border with Serbia. The second hypothesis on the notion of "Balkans" reects their metaphorical meanings and embraces the symbolic peculiarities, with pejorative meaning in some degree, that began to develop in the Western world at the beginning of the nineteenth century. These peculiarities have been associated with terms such as violence, aggression, intolerance, underdevelopment, ethnic and religious discord, etc. These terms become, ultimately, landmarks for creating an image of the ethnic and religious conict, an area in constant tension, inhabited by "involuted, uncivilized, irrational, barbarian" populations who have religious beliefs that are hard to be surmounted. As a geopolitical landmark, the Balkans has been imagined over time as an area between Europe and Asia, between the Habsburg Empire and the Ottoman Empire, between the West and the East, between the capitalist and communist worlds and, least but not last, between the Christian world and the Islamic one. However, the Balkans proved to be a distinct region comparing to Asia and Europe, which, although geographically speaking, is on the European continent is characterized by almost unanimously values metamorphosed in anxiety, dissatisfaction and continuous clashes. In addition, the Balkans have remained in the Western imagination an exotic part of continent, which, through its historical specicity, carries attitudes of political and ethnical separation.
Last but not least, the third hypothesis on this region brings to the forefront the idea that Balkans of our days are the result of the "historical legacy". Over time, there has been a tendency to preferentially establish boundaries based on the relationship between identity and cultural alterity, this criterion being the only one agreed. At present, this urge towards the connection between identity and alterity has proven to be ineffective due to the processes of change of borders, and because of new criteria for inter-ethnic relations. Maria Todorova, in Imagining the Balkans, highlighted the notions of cultural alterity and marginalization of communities as the latter's effect. In the second edition of the same paper, he introduced the term "historical heritage," considering it the most appropriate one for the denition of Balkan countries, while space and territory can provide a real picture of the dynamism and exibility of historical change. The author's choice of these terms is not accidental, as in her view the historical legacy does not replace the cultural discourse, but preserves the spatial characteristics, while offering the chronological lines of history. As such, the notion of the Balkans represents the historic legacy based on geographic criteria, but constantly connected with the cultural interdependencies that led to the formation of this region. But, in the last years, politically speaking, we are witnessing an increasing interest of Euro-Atlantic structure, NATO and EU, in Balkans and obvious vice-versa. The Balkans, as a region, have experienced a steady development over the last decade. Development, coupled with lowering tensions and reaching certain bilateral agreements and understandings, has been, to a great extent, the fruit of the capacity of certain state governments to understand that fueling political or other kinds of conicts will only keep their states underdeveloped and obviously behind other states, who earlier discovered and understood that a good inter-Balkan relationship and with the rest of Europe is in their benet/mean prosperity. Due to this process, the recent years mark two extremely important events for the region: on the one side, Montenegro ofcially acceded in NATO in June 2017, a major step for the country and an example for the rest of country who aspire to this ideal; on the other hand, recently Greece and Macedonia sign an historical document through the last one accepted to change its name in order to have a free way to accession in NATO and EU. Again, this act gives as an example of how the political-historical disputes can be solve in a diplomatic way and for common benet, and overriding self-pride.
Balkans gives to the international arena signs that its countries are more and more willing to show a moderate and a win-win policy. These two facts occurred recently make us to do optimistic predictions. Shortly, this means: 路 路 路 路
Montenegro's accession in EU Macedonia's accession in NATO More enhanced dialog between EU and BiH. More enhanced dialog between EU and Serbia
Even though, on short terms, few of these prospects will come true, it doesn't mean cooperation of Balkans countries with NATO and EU will stop. On contrary, all the signs show an appropriation of the countries that still oscillate whether enhancing the cooperation with NATO and EU or not. Least but not last, a challenge to most of countries in Balkans, as in the case of rest of the Europe, still remains the rise of nationalism and the parties who use populist slogans and agenda exploiting social weaknesses.
Mina Corovic Belgrade, Serbia Taking into consideration the turbulent history of Western Balkans, it is not hard being pessimistic towards the future. Even today, nationalism and mutual intolerance between the countries of this region are obstacles to regional growth. War discourses of the 90's are, inappropriately so, still emerging among the political elite of these countries. Furthermore, economic and social issues and problems concerning application of the rule of law are weaknesses that this area is facing. Will something be able to change in the next 20 years? First of all, support to European perspective in Western Balkans exists unequivocally - from Zagreb Summit in 2000, Thessaloniki Summit in 2003, to this year's Soď€ a Summit. Strategy of European Union regarding Western Balkans has given needed stimulus to more serious implementation of reforms and more optimistic look towards the future. Although there is a long road ahead for these countries to achieve all of predicted transformations, strong political will of EU and countries of Western Balkans would be a huge step forward. From fragile democratic institutions, implementation of the rule of law, achievement of good-neighborly relations to economic and social reforms - these are just some of the challenges amongst many. Secondly, the necessity of regional cooperation is certainly one of the key elements regarding further development. Regional approach of EU to countries of Western Balkans aims to keep peace and stability in the region, together with economic and social growth. Resolution of border disputes, promotion of economic, cultural and social cooperation is the foundation of political stability in the region. Bilateral disputes, such as strained relationship between Serbia and Croatia, paired with the issue of Kosovo, represent huge setbacks to further integration. In order to overcome the current stagnation, normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristine is one of the issues that needs to be solved in years to come, for which political will and determination are very much needed. Establishing compromise and maintenance of dialogue despite turbulences that may occur is crucial. Positive step in mutual relations is in every party's interest. Statesmen must not support ethnic intolerance, but condemn every statement and doings aimed in that direction. Nationalistic discourse from state ofď€ cials, which we unfortunately encounter very often, is transmitted to public and gains the form of hate speech between the citizens. Contrary to this, encouragement of tolerance, cooperation, cohesion and European values within a modern society should be a primary goal.
Moreover, judicial reform and suppression of organized crime and corruption are also some of the difculties these countries must face. In order to seek solutions, it is necessary for them to coordinate their activities and cooperate. Devastating information from World Justice Project Rule of Law index show that countries of this region have low ratings in respecting the basic principles of justice, especially Serbia, which is lagging behind, even compared to countries in this region. So it's necessary to combat corruption at all levels of government, prevent political interference that causes violation of human rights and media control. Respect, protection and promotion of human rights are subject that needs to be addressed. Besides, economic reforms must be conducted to improve the lack of competitiveness and unemployment rate, which are especially noticeable among young people in the region. Economies of Western Balkans' countries must be adequate in comparison to market forces in European Union, while more developed private sector is required. Given that the future of Western Balkans is inevitably bound to the future of European Union, we are all facing same challenges and must nd joint approach for their solution. The civil society is playing a huge role, therefore networking and cooperation of young people in the region is very important and has the potential to solve the problem. Social consensus and citizens' support are vital for future development. Lastly, more optimistic look to the future goes along with EU membership. Furthermore, it includes economic growth, increased investments in all economic and social elds, transport and energetic connections, political stability and very much needed democratization. Finally, we should mention a technological progress these countries will achieve with the introduction of digital market in the region of Western Balkans. There is also a strategic importance of expansion of European Union, which will also contribute to the stability in whole Europe. Firstly, there is a possibility of preserving security in whole Europe with the highest level of cooperation and coordination among national laws. Besides that, European Union includes promotion of trade relations and big market whom countries of Western Balkans will have access to. However, all of this is conditioned with implementation of already mentioned reforms and the improvement of regional cooperation. This is a process based on achievements of every country. If they work together within the EU, their opportunities would be even greater. In conclusion, overcoming the past is a necessary step to further development and joint work and approach in the future will bring prosperity to every country individually. Resolving their disagreements in a peaceful and diplomatic way and working together is decisive in order to make progress. Stronger cooperation leads not only to a membership in EU, but also to a peaceful and stable region that already survived a lot of difcult times. Young people from Western Balkans are key participants in creating of a better future, while comprising the foundation for cooperation, reconciliation, trust, dialogue and disregarding pessimism and indignation conceived in the past. Therefore, comprehensive reforms, resolving open questions and keeping good relations with neighbors, along with unambiguous will of the heads of states and their citizens, are clear steps towards a better future and progress and contribute to the well-being of these countries in the next two decades.
Yearbook 2018 Western Balkans in 20 years challenges and opportunities
This publication is produced with the support of the Regional Youth Cooperation Ofď€ ce â€“ RYCO. Its content is the sole responsibility of ALPHA Centre and its partners and does not necessarily present the views of RYCO.