The West’s Increasing Interest in the Balkans

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It is known that states do not have permanent friends in international relations and interests are decisive. For this reason, actors carry out strategies to achieve their own interests at the maximum level. However, after the First and Second World Wars, states achieved their goals not with wars; focused more on achieving diplomacy. For this reason, it is seen that countries turn to international organizations. In this context, the European Union (EU) is one of the actors that is a center of attraction and makes efforts to solve various crises.

The EU is an important example because it has managed to institutionalize despite having different views in its city. Security comes first among the issues that come to the fore in the EU, especially after the Russia-Ukraine War. For this reason, the EU closely follows the developments in the Western Balkans and increases its interest in the region. As a matter of fact, the aforementioned orientation has also been defined as a “strategic priority” by Oliver Varhei, Member of the European Commission for Enlargement.[1]

As it is known, the Balkans has been a geography that has attracted the attention of the leading actors in the global system throughout history. In the current conjuncture, it can be said that regional and global powers are closely interested in the Balkans. However, this situation leads to various competitions in the region and increases instability. This is why the President of the European Council, Joseph Borrell, stated that the EU wants a stable and peaceful Balkans.[2]

In fact, there has been Russian influence in the region since the past. It is known that pan-Slavism has a role in this. The EU, on the other hand, wants to prevent Russian-backed developments in the region. For this reason, the EU’s interest in the Balkans has increased recently. As a matter of fact, the fact that the President of the EU Parliament Roberta Mezzola said that the region belongs to the EU confirms this.[3] In this context, the union, which tries to prevent Russian influence, strives to improve its relations with Serbia.[4]

On the other hand, it should be emphasized that the EU’s interest in the Western Balkans is not unrequited. Because the states of the region are also turning to the EU. For example, according to a study by the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Kosovo, 76 percent of Montenegrin citizens support EU membership.[5]

At this point, it should be stated that; The West’s interest in the Western Balkans is not limited to the EU. The United States of America (USA) is also trying to expand its relations with the region. Considering the US-Russia rivalry, the attitude of the Washington administration is better understood. Therefore, the United States will conduct exercises with more than 24,000 soldiers in the region.[6] It can be argued that this policy of the USA has worked, albeit partially. Because Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani thanked Bob Menendez, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, for his commitment to the development and preservation of democracy in the region.[7]

As can be understood, the priority for the US is to limit Russia’s influence in the region. In this context, the Washington administration considers the resolution of the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia as one of the priorities. Undoubtedly, in this case, the fact that the Serbs are open to Russian influence in the context of pan-Slavism plays a decisive role. As a matter of fact, US State Department Senior Advisor Derek Schole held a phone call with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and drew attention to the importance of avoiding provocations and conflicts.[8]

As a result, the interest of both regional and global actors in the Western Balkans has been increasing recently. Especially after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, with the security of Europe gaining importance, both the USA and the EU accelerated their policies in the Western Balkans. Therefore, these policies basically aim to break the Russian influence in the region.

[1]  “Западен Балкан е стратешки приоритет на ЕУ, вели Вархеји”, Slobodenpecat,, (Date of Accession: 16.05.2023).

[2] “EU i Zapadni Balkan u borbi protiv ilegalne trgovine oružjem”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 16.05.2023).

[3] “Мецола: Западниот Балкан припаѓа во ЕУ”, Slobodenpecat,, (Date of Accession: 16.05.2023).

[4] “EP usvojio izvještaj o Srbiji: I dalje veliki utjecaj Rusije u zemlji”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 10.05.2023).

[5] “Istraživanje: Rekordna podrška članstvu Crne Gore u EU”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 18.05.2023).

[6] “Над 24.000 НАТО војници пролетва на Балканот ќе увежбуваат борба против Русија”, Slobodenpecat,, (Date of Accession:17.05.2023).

[7] “Османи: Благодарност до Менендез за неговата посветеност на демократијата на Западен Балкан”, Slobodenpecat,, (Date of Accession: 19.05.2023).

[8] “Шоле и Ескобар денеска пред американскиот Сенат за Западен Балкан”, Slobodenpecat,, (Date of Accession: 18.05.2023).