The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. Dr. Franjo Štiblar, Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Ljubljana, member of the Institute of Economic Research at the same Faculty and visiting Professor at the University of Bologna, has recently published the book “Balkan Conflict and Its Solutions – Creating Conditions for Peace, Stability and Development”. Herewith, a brief presentation of his book follows.

Dr. Franjo Štiblar
Professor at the Faculty of Law,
University of Ljubljana

In the 1990s, with the repeat of the military conflicts in the Balkans the region proved that it has rightfully obtained the title ’powder keg’ of Europe. The collapse of former Yugoslavia and the consequent war caused great human and material losses and destabilized the region and entire Europe. This is why the transition of the Western Balkan countries was delayed and the region lagged at least a decade behind the first wave transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe. A ‘black spot’ emerged in the middle of an otherwise integrated Europe.

The monograph suggests that the differences in culture, economic and social development as well as demographic trends among the Western Balkan nations were the causes for the conflict. After analyzing each of them in great detail the author proposes a wide range of general principles and specific measures that could mitigate these differences and bring back peace, stability and development to the region. The final goal is of course reintegration. This would mutually benefit the people in the region as well as the broader international community, which should remain engaged, but in a more appropriate way.

What is the problem? Emergence of the Balkan conflict

In comparison to the division in ‘velvet revolution’ of Czechoslovakia and the slightly less friendly, but still peaceful, disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the disintegration of the former SFR Yugoslavia was not friendly and created military conflicts amongst the countries involved. During the 1990s the war in the Balkans and its atrocities attracted the interest of the entire world. The largest atrocities in Europe after World War II took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the first time in its existence, the international military intervention of NATO - later also supported by the UN - was used to prevent genocide within one country, not war among countries.

Things are settling down slowly, but colossal problems remain unsolved. The Western Balkans, from history known as the ‘powder keg’ of Europe, need to be stabilized and peace and cooperation have to return to the region. This will bring stability to Europe as a whole and one of the world’s crisis points would be resolved. Apart from some former Soviet Union countries the Western Balkans are the least developed region in Europe. The situation in the Balkans in general and within it the solution to the status of Kosovo is currently the largest international political problem in Europe with the potential to burst into a world crisis regarding the Muslim – Western relations. On the other hand, a successful solution to this problem in Kosovo (and to lesser extend in Bosnia and Herzegovina) could pave the way (be a model) for solving the Muslim – Christian tension elsewhere in the world.

It is the intention of this book to contribute proposals for the solutions to the Western Balkan problems. The starting principle for the solutions to be effective is that they should come in an organic (natural) way from the people below and should not be enforced by the political elites from above. Based on self-determination of nations as a starting principle, they should:

  1. Firstly, encourage intra-regional cooperation among the regional entities (economic, cultural, sport, as a basis for political, social understanding and cooperation),
  2. Secondly, accelerate their economic, political and social development (catching-up with the developed world), and
  3. Thirdly, as a final step enable the inclusion of the Western Balkan countries into the EU; (within EU borders, conflicts are non-existent or, easily solved).

The outline of this monograph is as follows. In the first part the general framework is defined and adopted for appearance emergence and origin of the conflict and its resolution from theory and adopted to the Western Balkans. In the second part, the main causes for the conflict are analyzed one by one, with the description of the past developments, the present situation and the future prospects. In the third part, solutions with recommendations for concrete actions that could help to solve the conflict and bring peace, stability and growth of welfare to the region are proposed. The work is concluded with a literature and appendices.

The “value added of this work is in the following:

  1. It is the most up to date, exact and comprehensive analysis of the current situation in the Western Balkans (cross field: political, economic, social; with plenty of empirical data, and some innovative calculations, for instance, on trade, on the probability of a military conflict). Separate information on Montenegro and Kosovo is also included. It is based on findings of international relations, political sciences theory as well as empirical econometric estimations made by the author.
  2. Using a model of the Western Balkans it shows that solutions with moderate Muslims are possible in Western countries; it also shows which solutions are the most appropriate.
  3. It indicates why not only the EU, but also the USA should continue to play a role in the Western Balkans (a region where they can show success in dealing with Muslims) and how should they proceed. It informs as regards the entire range of intervening EU (and other stakeholders) activities in the Western Balkans, their positive results as well as deficiencies.
  4. It indicates the weaknesses in the coordination of the stakeholders’ interventions in the Western Balkans (the EU, UN, the World Bank and IMF, individual countries) and shows how this coordination could be improved to improve the results.
  5. It brings a view from within by a person and people who live and work in the region and are still actively engaged in the region, but, being educated in the West, have a good understanding of Western values, social science achievements and goals. Regular presence or life in the region and personal contacts with scholars and decision makers in the region helped in obtaining a more realistic assessment of the situation and offer appropriate proposals for its improvement.
  6. It brings vision specific concrete and innovative proposals for improving the situation in the Western Balkans, including such hot issues as Kosovo question, situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, application of the new multilateral free trade agreement among countries in the region etc.
  7. It brings a view from within by the author and young intellectuals who live and work in the region and are still actively engaged in the region, but, being educated in the West, have a good understanding of Western values, social science achievements and goals. Regular presence or life in the region and personal contacts with scholars and decision makers in the region helped the author in obtaining a more realistic assessment of the situation and offer appropriate proposals for its improvement.
  8. With presenting views on the Western Balkans from the both sides of Atlantic it brings American views on the subject closer to the Europe (EU) and, vice versa, the European views closer to the USA.

Specific features of the monograph are the following,

The entirety of the study is provided by coverage in separate chapters of history, politics, religion, rule of law and judiciary, public administration, the role of external stakeholders, economy, demography, social issues, defense and military issues plus other fields of social life (media, ecology, education, science and technology, arts and sports).

The empirical work brings original and innovative estimation of the probability of conflict in the Balkans, the share of Muslims, the relative weight of two aspirants (Turkey and the Western Balkans) for the EU membership, forecast of GDP, population until 2020 and forecast of development of banking, insurance and tourism until 2014, forecast of trade potentials based on estimated gravity model, empirical information on military expenditures and forces, specially calculated overall indicators of ecology, intensity of corruption, competitiveness, transition etc.. Estimated econometric model for Montenegro is presented in Appendix with ambition to create such models for all countries in the region and link them through export-import equations.

The theoretical part is related to the analysis of differences of culture as major force (added with economic and social differences) behind the conflict. The structuralists’ theory of cultural change, political theory of causes of conflict, conflict prevention and its management, social theory of national identities are among theoretical foundations for diagnosis of the Western Balkan problem and at the same time the basis for identification of measures and instruments for peaceful solutions and return to development.

The proposed solutions include vision statement and almost 100 fundamental principles and specific solutions are proposed for practical policy actions at the end.

Ljubljana, December 12, 2007

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