Because of its geographical proximity and historical, social, and cultural ties, the Balkans is a region of particular interest to Turkey. During the last decades, in parallel to its economic growth and foreign policy activism, Turkey has intensified economic relations, public diplomacy, and cultural activities with this region. In the late 2000s, Ankara began playing an active role in regional politics and started important initiatives to establish regional cooperation and mediation, particularly in the Western Balkans. Although its political initiatives slowed down in the aftermath of the Arab spring, Turkey’s bilateral relations with Balkan governments have remained reasonably warm while economic, social, and cultural ties have strengthened.
Turkey’s engagement with the Balkans has led to different reactions both from inside and outside the region. Every once in a while, skeptical views regarding Turkey’s intentions in the Balkans are expressed in the international media. The skeptics’ most-voiced claim is that Turkey is undermining the Balkans’ stability and Euro-Atlantic integration. Yet Turkey’s approach to the region does not provide a justifiable basis for these claims.