This paper gives a retrospective of the events in the Balkans in the last 20 years. Hence, it indicates the problems, the progress and the challenges in terms of respecting and promoting diversity. The Western Balkans has always been a very interesting region with many challenges during different historical periods. If we take into consideration all the differences and diversities in this region, then this shouldn’t strike us as surprising. During history the Balkan region has always been a crossroads of many events, conflicts, changes and destructive occurrences. In order to understand the connection between ethnic and the religious diversity, as well as the future of the Western Balkan countries in terms of Euro-Atlantic integration, we need to provide some information about the political, economic and social changes in these countries during the past, especially in the last two decades.
To get a better understanding of all the processes and events we need to take a look at the 90s of the last century. This period was one of the most important turning points in international relations. By the end of the Cold War there were two blocks within the societies – The Western (capitalist) and the Eastern (communist), and an agreement for the Balkans to be a balance between these two blocks. This fact was important for the promotion of the concept of the nation-state, which refers generally to both of the blocks. However, changes such as the dissolution and breakdown of the USSR and Yugoslavia, as well as the official Eastern bloc fiasco, brought an increase in the individual identity of the citizens living in these countries.
This was the beginning of a new era to be characterized by conflicts, wars, refugees, humanitarian crises, a large number of casualties and injured people, because of the idea that the emerging countries, especially from the Balkan region, should be nation-state countries, i.e. composed of a nation thereby ignoring the ethnic and religious differences or the unrecognized diversity of the citizens of different ethnic groups living in these countries.
The establishment of the Euro-Atlantic integration concept as a key national and state priority of almost every country in this region led to the understanding of differences as an asset, and not as an obstacle for the faster integration to the EU and NATO. This fact undoubtedly contributed to the establishment of the criteria for membership, and in particular to the promotion of the rights and freedoms of minorities as most important for the integration process.
- Western Balkan
- ethnic/religious diversity
- EU/NATO integration