1. Watch out in 2018

in Balkans 2017 · Baltics 2017 · Crisis 2018 · Culture 2018 · EN · Europe 2018 · EX-USSR · Nation 2018 · Person 2018 · Politics 2018 · Skepticism 2018 63 views / 3 comments
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* keep a close eye on in 2018.

The Western Balkans, Nicholas Williams 

At their summit in May, the Albanian Prime Minister warned NATO leaders that the Balkans were being squeezed between Russia and Islamic fundamentalism. Would that it were so simple! In April, the International Crisis Group defined the region’s problem as “a special case of unchecked executive power, erosion of the rule of law, xenophobia directed at neighbours and migrants and pervasive economic insecurity.” In other words, home grown.

Neither EU nor NATO has been idle. NATO accepted Montenegro as its 29th member in 2017. In Kosovo and Macedonia the EU has exerted its influence to keep antagonisms within manageable limits. Somewhat disingenuously, the Commission has identified Serbia and Montenegro, despite their pervasive corruption and evident shortcomings, as frontrunners in EU accession negotiations.

The EU has even conducted its first ever Strategic Assessment of Bosnia, trying to determine whether the lure of EU accession could eventually lead to the termination of the EU’s largely token military presence in the country with Dayton Agreement responsibilities.

The tensions over Macedonia and Kosovo will probably intensify in 2018. Added to this, Bosnia is headed for constitutional crisis. Elections there in October will sharply expose the mutually blocking ambitions of its constituent peoples. Inevitably, Russia will be blamed for the stalling of that country’s efforts to get closer to NATO.

But as ever, in Bosnia and the region, local resentments and fears, more than malign outsiders, determine the speed of integration into Western institutions. When the crises come, NATO and the EU should exercise patience. The EU in particular should remember that it is still the only show in town and everyone, without exception, but above all Serbia, is queuing for a ticket.

The European Union, Ilana Bet-El 

2018 will be a year of hard work on defence and security for the EU, in both theory and practice. Conceptually, it will be the year in which the union must start transforming the high aspirations of 2017 into practice: defining the commitments entailed in PESCO (Permanent Structured Coordination), and creating its initial structures; implementing the first phase of the EDF (European Defence Fund), and mapping the potentials of the next phase; and expanding EU-NATO cooperation, both in order to ensure the new structures enable interoperability and to find an equitable sharing of responsibilities — especially with regard to Russia.

It is difficult to see a meaningful change in EU or NATO relations with Russia, meaning increased resources in both institutions will be devoted to recreating defensive structures on the eastern and northern borders while pouring ever more resources into cyber capabilities. At the same time, the EU will be devoting ever more time to its other borders.

Turkey, as the gateway to the Middle East, remains also the most potentially porous for terrorists and migrants, while the southern regions, beyond the Mediterranean, and sub-Saharan Africa will loom ever more significantly for the same reasons. Securing its borders will therefore remain a central defence and security preoccupation for the EU.

* The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at:   http://europeanleadershipnetwork.org

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  1. In south-eastern Europe, Bulgaria is taking on the presidency of the EU Council for the next six months, while January 18 marks a year since protesters hit the streets in neighbouring Romania to demonstrate about corruption reforms.

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