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Political Trends & Dynamics in Southeast Europe NATO in Southeast Europe

20 pages, pdf
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Political Trends & Dynamics in Southeast Europe NATO in Southeast Europe

Publisher: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Volume: 20 pages, pdf


The Euro-Atlantic institutional framework is the future of the Western Balkans. Or, at least, that has been the mantra in Brussels and Washington for the better part of the last two decades. European integration, arguably the more complex of the two undertakings, has been prominent in the international community’s engagement in the region. Both Slovenia and Croatia are now EU members, and Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia are each official candidate countries, with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application underway. But what of the Atlantic half of the integration process? Indeed, NATO’s formal presence in the Balkans and Southeast Europe predates the EU’s role by decades. But given the nature of the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s and the organization’s comparatively disengaged role in the region post-9/11 expectations that the NATO integration process would go smoothly proved to be too optimistic. Despite strong Western endorsements for joining, internal disagreements (i.e. Bosnia) coupled with bilateral disputes (i.e. Macedonia/Greece) have made the NATO enlargement process move at uneven speeds. Obviously, NATO is a security bloc first and foremost, but it is a military alliance with an explicit political foundation as well. Namely, to serve as a mutual defense body for the world’s leading democracies. And yet as NATO has expanded its membership over the past two decades, especially in the post-communist states of Eastern Europe, so too have its commitments to substantive democratic norms apparently ebbed. Turkey, a long-time member, is in the midst of profound democratic retrenchment; serious concerns exist about the rule of law in Hungary and Poland as well; and Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece have been roiled by political instability since 2008.