Keeping the Balkan Ghosts at Bay
VISBY, SWEDEN – European Union leaders have suddenly awoken to new realities in the Balkans. At a recent summit, they emphasized the need for increased EU engagement to maintain stability – and to push back against Russian influence – in the region.
But the Balkan countries’ geopolitical situation should not come as a surprise. After all, post-Ottoman fractures – stretching from Bihać in Bosnia’s northwestern corner to Basra on Iraq’s Persian Gulf coast – have repeatedly been a source of regional and global instability since the demise of the old empires a century ago.
When the Habsburg and Ottoman empires collapsed at the end of World War I, attempts were made to establish modern nation-states in the Balkans, despite the region’s national and cultural diversity. Since then, nationalism has repeatedly clashed with the region’s enduring mosaic of civil life, fueling one conflict after another.