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Balkans: The Balkanisation of Europe

As foreign policy experts list their problems for 2016, the Balkans never gets a mention. That’s strange, as the region is the microcosm of all the differing conflicts in Europe, and even further afield, Denis MacShane writes.

Denis MacShane is a former UK Minister of Europe in the Tony Blair government and works in Brussels and London advising on EU policy and politics. His latest book, Brexit : How Britain Will Leave Europe, was published in 2015 by IB Tauris.

The Balkans is Europe’s Zombie Zone, where the dead matter more than the living, where past feuds count for more than finding solutions based on compromise and where religion and churches still have political influence in a way unknown north of the Alps since the 1950s.

From the Aegean and Adriatic to the Alps, the region is full of unhappy nations with bad economics in competition with worse politics. Slovenia is busy putting up razor wire barriers on its borders with fellow EU member state Croatia.

Bosnia-Herzegovina remains unable to work as a single state. Serbia still is infected by the cancer of Milosevic Serb supremacism, egged on by Vladimir Putin, who loves the idea of keeping the Balkans as a problem region that his rivals in Washington and Brussels cannot solve.

Albania has yet to escape the deep corruption and criminalities of its first post-Communist decade. While the younger, more progressive leadership of Edi Rama makes its mark with European and American counterparts, the old trades of smuggling cigarettes, people, arms and prostitutes die hard.

Kosovo remains a nation without full status, as Greece and Serbia place every obstacle in the path of the young Kosovan state from getting full diplomatic recognition at the UN, or even the Council of Europe, where the norms and values of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the court that enforces them, are more than ever needed.

The only bright news is that Macedonia may be willing to talk to Athens about the name dispute. The claim the Slav Macedonians are the same as the Hellenic heroes who defended Western civilization against Persian tyranny is of course absurd.

But there are plenty of countries around the world that call themselves the  “United States” but they are not America. No-one outside of Greece thinks for a moment that the Skopje republic calling itself Macedonia is any threat to the real Macedonia of Thessalonika, and northern Greece.

Read more: The Balkanisation of Europe | EurActiv

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