An Open Balkan sounds good. But, it is anything but Open. The Balkan still lives surrounded by a mental wall.

Borjan Jovanovski

The initiative itself for the Open Balkans as autochthonous sounds good. To work on the development of regional cooperation as a need of the countries of the region themselves and not as a geopolitical project of any international factor would in itself mean a significant step forward in the qualification of the Balkan states for EU membership, but also a breakthrough in mental barriers. But in order to get that result, all the countries in the region should first be clear about whether they really need integration in the EU or if it serves the current politicians only as a smoke screen that hides corruption and authoritarian tendencies. The states in the region, for example, have a fundamental problem of standing behind a joint Declaration that will loudly request the EU to speed up the integration processes and set 2030 as the deadline for EU membership. The inability to play as a team in achieving strategic goals stems from the power of hidden agendas that undermine every good intention from the background. In that sense, none of the regional initiatives, regardless of whether it comes from the region or from outside, does not give any result, an endless series of meetings which, if only the cost of their organization is calculated, do more harm than any benefit. The final parade of the Berlin process in Tirana could not hide the deep differences that burden regional cooperation.

The biggest problem in that sense is Serbia, which, given its size and geostrategic position, is key to the success of any regional cooperation initiative. Its flirtation with Moscow and Beijing makes it a ‘sounding board’ through which Russian propaganda is spread in the region, whose most destructive tool is Albanophobia and the instigation of any possible way of conflict between the Orthodox and Muslims. In the case of Macedonia, Moscow no longer needs to spend resources because the dominant Serbian media here very effectively spread the postulates of that propaganda additionally seasoned with discrediting the EU and the European integration processes. Similarly, Belgrade influences Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in this way. So, the Open Balkans in that sense, when it comes to Macedonia, can be translated as an Open Channel for Russian propaganda.

So, in order to put an end to the long agony of the region, which is hidden behind the doors of every initiative for regional cooperation, it is necessary for the countries of the Western Balkans to sit down at the highest level and mutually understand who really wants and desires what. Until then, any regional initiative is just a fig leaf behind which potential Balkan atavisms are hidden.


Borjan Jovanovski, long-time correspondent from Brussels and author of a large number of TV programs dedicated to European integration processes