Balkans crisis looming?


Southern Europe is where democracy was once invented. But today, many there say that democracy isn’t working for them, analyst Rick Noack writes for The Washington Post:

There is no shortage of problems: The International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that Greece’s debts were unsustainable — and there may not be sufficient support for another bailout; Italy may need to hold new elections this year amid growing support for populist parties; newly emerged but decades-old tensions in the Balkans are worrying observers. What connects all of those woes is a feeling held by many southern Europeans: that their national democratic institutions have failed them.

“Whereas northern Europeans are mostly satisfied with how democracy works in their countries,” Noack adds, “disappointment with democracy has become endemic in the continent’s south in recent years, according to an E.U. survey put into graphical form by Harvard University politics professor Pippa Norris.”

The Balkan wars of the 1990s seem like a distant memory. But the possibility of renewed crisis in the region is growing and may soon impose new demands on US policy, according to Carl Gershman, the President of the National Endowment for Democracy, and Ivana Cvetkovic Bajrovic, the NED’s Senior Program Officer for Southeastern Europe.

The emerging Balkan crisis is partly the result of the failure of the countries of the region to achieve meaningful democratic progress since the fall of communism, they write for World Affairs:

Political institutions remain weak, corruption is endemic, and ethnic nationalism is pervasive. Key media outlets have been captured by the state, and politics are dominated by populist strongmen who polarize their societies. Political tensions have spiked in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, which were the main centers of conflict in the earlier Balkan wars, and they are also escalating in Macedonia, Serbia, and even Croatia. These problems have given Russia an opportunity to expand its political influence across the Balkans by exploiting dysfunctional institutions, national divisions, and historic grievances. The situation is increasingly perilous, and there is a growing risk of radicalization that threatens both the security of the fragile Balkan states and the stability of Europe as a whole.


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