Prospects for Balkan Cooperation after the Disintegration of Yugoslavia

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INTRODUCTION

Since attaining their independence, the states of South-Eastern Europe have realised the significance, and the necessity, of converging their purposes and minimizing their disagreements. A common goal, a common direction was a necessary precondition. This common course could respond to the national interests of the participating countries.

Inter-Balkan Cooperation has historically tried to establish some common needs and expectations, regardless of the result:

a. The course towards independence and the creation of national space by the Slavs, Bulgarians, and Greeks characterized the 19th century.(3)

b. The needs of Christian populations who were living in Ottoman territory to free themselves led to the Balkan League, and the Balkan Wars of 1912-13.(4)

c. The effort towards achieving an autonomous policy and self-protection, far from the competition of the Great Powers in the Inter-War period, culminated in the Balkan Pact of 1934.(5)

d. During the Cold War period, the need for disengagement from the logic of the bipolar system of the two superpowers, and also the willingness for fast-moving development in an non-aggressive regional sub-system, led to a number of Inter-Balkan Meetings, even on Prime Ministerial level, with positive results.(6)

e. The common course towards a post-Cold War political stability and economic development underscored the need for rapprochement. The latter materialized through a number of intergovernmental meetings in the years 1989-1991.

On the other hand, all these efforts towards Inter-Balkan Cooperation followed rather than provoked the historic events, remaining inevitably on a secondary level in terms of political gravity.

The states of South-Eastern Europe did not have the strength to line up their powerless national interests against the high value of the region in the international "geo-strategic stock market." They found themselves controlled both in terms of their cooperative initiatives, and their policies, which created tensions.

Almost a decade after the end of the Cold War and three years after the Dayton Agreement, we have to ask some crucial questions:

* Is there the decisiveness, the ideological choice, the political flexibility and capability for the necessary long-term cooperative policies?

* Can the Balkan countries overcome the syndrome of economic infiltrations and of barren "high" national interests, and produce the infrastructure for further cooperation?

* How can the above-mentioned multilateral cooperation be beneficial for all the participating countries, in order to overcome the significant question of the "relative gains?"

* Have we defined our priorities and immediate actions to create a security regime, minimizing the "casus belli" issues, and to develop mutual understanding and stability?

If we try to answer all these questions by simple proposals, we will fall into the "trap of idealism," where wishful and peace-promoting statements hide the core of the question of inter-Balkan cooperation.(7)

BALKAN COOPERATION IN THE 1990S

Examining the post-Cold War era in South-Eastern Europe, we have to admit that the perspectives for development of Balkan Cooperation are limited. The "Golden Era" of Balkan Cooperation of 1987-1991 seems very long ago. The years until 1994 mainly highlighted the friction points among the Balkan states, rather than underlining the necessity for cooperation. These years were characterized by bilateral "Agreements of Friendship and Cooperation," which in fact underscored regional confrontations based on a structure of axis and alliances.

In the first years of this decade, issues of nationhood and national interest, ethnic minorities and the right of self-determination lay at the centre of a debate regarding international relations and foreign policy.

By 1992, a retrogression had become noticeable, because of the following factors:

i. …