The six countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – over twenty five years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and more than fifteen since the last major armed conflict of the early nineties of the twentieth century on these territories, have undertaken all, more or less, the road that in a not too distant future shall see them members of the EU. Adhesion negotiations have already been undertaken with Montenegro and Serbia; Macedonia and Albania have obtained the official status of candidate countries, while Bosnia and Kosovo have not yet presented a request for adhesion. Right now, however, it seems fair to ask whether all these years more could and should have been done. All the involved parties in the long path of the partnership leading towards European integration are somewhat more tired and disheartened: the EU because of the delays in the requested reforms and the Balkan States which, in turn, relied on a greater understanding on the part of Brussels, taking into account the specificities of this “cumbersome” and particular region of the continent that often escape bureaucratic routine. Wanting to make an assessment of the current situation, we are faced with an overall picture that seems little promising under many aspects, taking into account a number of factors such as the yet unresolved question of the denomination “Macedonia”; the modest functionality of the bipolar structure of the state of Bosnia; the urgent need for constitutional reforms in Serbia as a condition for unblocking the situation regarding relations with Kosovo; the potential growth of radical Islam in all these countries channelling ISIS activities, as evidenced by the incidents that occurred recently in Bosnia and Macedonia. Moreover: the dual track policy which, since the crisis in Ukraine, leads each government to take the side of the EU or Russia; ever increasing poverty – a legacy of the past coupled by the consequences of the global crisis, with high unemployment rates especially among young people who are more likely to emigrate en masse in EU countries; widespread corruption not only in businesses but also in public health and education systems; the mass media, some of which complain about a lack of freedom of expression, while others have acted as tools and spokespersons of various political forces whose actions disregard the wellbeing of society … In contrast, with a more optimistic view, one cannot fail to note the obvious progress that demonstrates how this region, about fifteen million people, despite having lived different hectic stages, marked by nationalism, wars, displacement, humanitarian disasters, has taken – or at least is trying to – a major step on the path of political, economic and social reforms stipulated in the European agenda. It should also be noted that most of the political forces, both those in government and those at the opposition, pointing more or less sincerely against European targets, aware that this is what voters demand and expect, that this is the only way to ensure a better life for citizens. It is up to the European Union to accelerate these processes, demanding facts and concrete results, rather than words and rhetoric consensus.
The Countries in the region experienced wars, divisions and suffering. But European integration is a possible and perhaps necessary option