Search and temptations for national greatness in the Western Balkans - myths, actors, implications

Wulf Lapins/Enes Velija

The aim of the article is to provide an overview of reflections, descriptions and conceptions of the Albanian quest for national greatness on a prepared and discussed empirical basis, which would develop massive negative power in the Western Balkans in the context of a potential design. The sources researched and problematized in the course of the processing expand and supplement the existing knowledge collections and create a scientific added value through the structure of a historical longitudinal section and systematic cross-section. The Yugoslav wars of secession and succession of the 1990s resulted in seven political foundings in the Western Balkans. The region is now geographically surrounded by EU states. Against this background, the EU is particularly interested in stability in this area.

For years now, the two political schools of thought deepening or expanding EU integration have been controversial in the capitals of the EU - and therefore, as their lowest common denominator, they have been subject to “enlargement fatigue”, which is now even growing into an “enlargement resistance”. The resurgence, however, of a political-systematic sowing of ethnic national-populist/nationalist resentments and tensions in the Western Balkans - often interwoven with religious fundamentalism and with high unemployment in all countries, as well as structural deficits in the fields of the rule of law, democratic institutions, public administration and economic development - implies negative consequences, especially in the younger generations.

Non-regional actors such as Turkey, the USA, Russia, China and the Gulf Arab states influence the EU support and promotion processes in the Western Balkans with different policies and interests, thereby challenging the EU on the geopolitical front. They repeatedly provide indirect or direct support to the political and economic corrupt elites, thus enabling options to delay or even completely undermine the democratic transformation steps demanded by Brussels. The Union faces an almost unsolvable dilemma: Due to the indefinite length of time in the waiting room for the long-awaited full EU membership, through which long accession periods are justified, but due to a lack of willingness to reform, it loses its radiance and credibility in the region and at the same time opens the door to the rise of authoritarianism, clientelism and neopatrimonialism. But the examples of Bulgaria and Romania also reveal that, in turn, too early EU membership without achieved and, above all, sustainable maturity for the rule of law and democracy undermine the internal cohesion of the entire Union. So it is not an easy task for Brussels.