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The Western Balkans in the Transatlantic Security Context: Where Do We Go from Here?

The Western Balkans has traditionally held vital geostrategic importance for European and transatlantic security. Ever since the 1990s, the EU and the NATO have maintained an active presence in the region, and pursued goals of stability and peace. Since the 2000s, the Euro-Atlantic actors have sought an eventual integration of the countries in the region into transatlantic structures. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the contemporary situation in the Western Balkans, examining the regional countries’ prospects for Euro-Atlantic integration and the implications of the latest developments for transatlantic security. It makes the argument that NATO accession acts as a prelude to eventual EU accession, ensuring that the countries stay the course of engaging in reforms and contributing to Euro-Atlantic security while confirming their commitment to democracy.

The Western Balkans in the Transatlantic Security Context Where Do
Representatives of the Balkan states and EU during a press conference after their Western Balkans’ leaders meeting in Sofia on March 1, 2018. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images
 

Introduction

The Western Balkans has traditionally held vital geostrategic importance for European and transatlantic security. The region has experienced great power competition for centuries and typically been referred to as the ‘powder keg of Europe.’ With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the region witnessed serious instability and bloodshed in the form of civil wars and ethnic conflicts. Ever since the 1990s, both the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have played an active role in the Western Balkans, significantly contributing to the efforts to establish peace and stability. Besides playing an active role in peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions and providing economic and military aid, ever since the 2000s, the two organizations have offered a membership trajectory to the countries in the region. In fact, in 2004, Slovenia first become a NATO and then an EU member. In 2009, Albania and Croatia became members of NATO. Four years later, in 2013, Croatia became an EU member state. Finally, in 2017, Montenegro became the 29th member of NATO.

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