WESTERN BALKANS AT THE CROSSROADS PROJECT

BASIC INFORMATION

In March 2018, PSSI launched a project “Western Balkans at the Crossroads: Assessing Non-Democratic External Influence Activities.” The first round of the project was concluded in June 2019, and a follow-up 18-month-long second round of the project started in October 2019, this time under the title “Ways Forward in Analyzing External Actors’ Influence.”

Download an overview of the WBC I. project:            and of the WBC II. project: 

SUMMARY

The WBC project seeks to analyse and publicize external actors' influence in the Western Balkans, specifically focusing on Russian, Chinese, Turkish, and Gulf State engagements.

The first phase ( WBC I. March 2018-June 2019) of the project aimed to identify and map non-Western influence in five post-Yugoslav and not-EU member countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Kosovo. It presented its findings and recommendations to local and international experts, civil society, the media, and the public through six thematic briefs, series of articles, a comprehensive final publication, a policy paper and a conference report.

The innovative project (WBC II. October 2019-March 2021) builds on the knowledge established and focuses on in-depth socially rooted research and investigative journalism. Its design reflects our aim to go beyond conventional analytical frameworks, overcoming ideologically constructed stereotypes and methodological nationalism while combining a variety of methodological approaches. Project outputs will consist of fifteen analytical studies, fifteen journalistic articles drawing on their findings, a reflection paper and a collective monography.

BACKGROUND

In the past couple of years the former Yugoslav states that are not members of the EU or NATO (with the exception of Montenegro that gained NATO membership in June 2017), notably Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo, have been confronted with a wave of rising ethnic and social tensions, authoritarian impulses and corruption scandals. These tumultuous events have led to democratic backsliding in a number of cases.

 

Serious vulnerabilities have emerged in this volatile region that are being exploited by non-democratic external powers for the purpose of increasing their leverage to achieve tactical and strategic gains with the ultimate goal of obstructing further integration of the Western Balkans into the EU and/or NATO.

 

The Balkans have historically been viewed as a zone of great-power rivalry, where shrinking European or US involvement in the past decade has created a window of opportunity for other external forces to diminish the freedom of action of several of the individual countries. Certain of these outside powers with relatively deep historical, cultural or economic ties to the region – most importantly Russia, China, Turkey and the Gulf states (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE), seek to increase their influence in the region employing a wide spectrum of tools, including economic, political, cultural and religious.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES
  • Deliver a comprehensive analysis of influence activities carried out in the former Yugoslav non-EU member states by non-democratic external powers aimed at obstructing further integration of region countries into the EU or NATO.

  • Gain valuable insights and illuminate a number of worrying trends designed to provide these external forces with lasting strategic advantage and greater control over local societies and politics.

  • Raise awareness concerning the insidious meddling of foreign powers in this region and catalyse greater activism by the EU and NATO in countering harmful activities.

The project deliverables will be targeted at the policy-making and NGO expert communities as well as the general public in EU/NATO countries and the Balkans themselves.