The goal of this rubric is to filter and promote the recent scholarship on the Western Balkans/Southeast Europe coming from the leading IR and Area Studies journals. The Regional Security Knowledge Hub team periodically refreshes the list, in winter, spring, summer and autumn. If you are interested in getting updates on the new content, please subscribe to our newsletter.



Populist Peacemaking: Trump’s Peace Initiatives in the Middle East and the Balkans”, by Dana M Landau, International Affairs, 98 (6): 2001–2019 (2022).

With the rise of populist leaders around the world, populism’s impact on foreign policy and international affairs has come into focus. Adding to this literature, we propose the concept of ‘populist peacemaking’, in which key tenets of populism, in style and substance, are projected onto the sphere of international mediation. We offer an analytical framework for understanding populist peacemaking consisting of three features. Firstly, populist peacemaking is characterized by a rejection of the ‘peacemaking elites’ and their established rules and practices, including international norms, a refutation of context-specific knowledge, and a clean-slate approach that disregards past peacemaking attempts and alienates other international mediators. Secondly, populist peacemaking employs aggrandized rhetoric and symbolism that puts the mediator—rather than the conflict parties—in the spotlight, thus integrating domestic politics into peacemaking. Finally, populist peacemaking frames the process as representing the volonté générale, i.e. serving the interests of the ‘pure people’ in the conflict-affected context. We illustrate this phenomenon empirically with a case-study of United States’ peacemaking efforts during the Trump era, tracing initiatives pursued by US envoys in the Israeli–Palestinian and Kosovo–Serbia conflicts. From this analysis, populist peacemaking emerges as a distinct phenomenon, not to be subsumed under the heading of ‘illiberal peacemaking’.


Turkish Foreign Policy in the Balkans Amidst ‘Soft Power’ and ‘de-Europeanisation’”, by Başak Alpan, Ahmet Erdi Öztürk, Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Volume 22 (1): 45-63 (2022).

Since the beginning of the 2000s, extensive academic research has echoed one popular opinion, ‘Turkey is back to the Balkans’. These studies have been scrutinizing the complicated role of Turkey in the Balkans, usually drawing upon the use of soft power by the former. This impact in the region remained intact during the 2010s, although the overall Turkish foreign policy in the 2010s has been highly securitized and de-Europeanized, losing its soft power character that had been its trademark starting from the early 2000s. In this regard, this paper aims to decipher different dimensions of Turkey’s foreign policy in the Balkans through a more general exploration of the de-Europeanization of Turkish foreign policy in the 2010s. Through more than 80 semi-structured interviews, which were conducted between 2016–2020, with political actors, diplomats, religious leaders, scholars and journalists in Turkey and the Balkans, we address the question of whether the divergence of Turkish foreign policy from a soft power perspective and its concomitant de-Europeanization tendency had been crystallized in its policy towards the Balkans within the context of the 2010s.


The EU, the Visegrád Group, and Southeast Europe: Conflicting Perspectives within an Enlarging “European Identity””, by Sebastian Meredith, East European Politics and Societies: and Cultures, Volume 36(4):1292-1314 (2022).

This paper will compare and contrast Visegrád and Southeast European mobility towards (and away from) the European Union (EU) ideal of cohesion, in the process investigating conflicting “core” and “peripheral” assertions of “Europeanness.” Though the Visegrád states have exceeded economic expectations, they have to varying degrees stood in opposition to the values of the EU’s self-professed “European identity,” with Hungary and Poland in particular demonstrating increasing illiberalism. Meanwhile, in Southeast Europe, lacklustre economic performance has tended to contrast with increasingly liberal democratic rule and strong popular support for the EU “project.” The EU’s cohesion strategy has prioritized economic convergence and, ultimately, this has meant that budgetary considerations, and political rhetoric and scrutiny, have often favoured the rebellious but economically resurgent Visegrád states over the weaker economies of a more compliant Southeast Europe. The EU’s integration strategy of constructing “identity hegemony” depends upon both economic and socio-political convergence. This paper questions the congruence of these focuses, given the discriminatory application of integration incentives and the persistence of Orientalism/Balkanism in West European rhetoric.


Post-Yugoslav States Thirty Years after 1991: Unfinished Businesses of a Fivefold Transition”, by Dejan Jović, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, Volume 24 (2): 193-222 (2022).

The article critically examines and evaluates from a 30-year perspective the developments in states that emerged after the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991. It places 1991 in opposition to 1989, and to what 1989 symbolized for most of Europe. But it also argues that 1991 in Yugoslavia was a direct, although undesirable, consequence of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe. The article develops the concept of fivefold transition to explain expectations and achievements for each of the five sectors of transition: political, economic, statehood, identity and war-to-peace transition. In all five sectors the results are mixed. Three areas of unfinished business remain particularly pertinent. They are related to questions: (1) whether or not the disintegration of Yugoslavia is now over?; (2) whether the reintegration of post-Yugoslav states that disintegrated simultaneously with Yugoslavia is over or not?; and (3) whether integration into the European Union is still a viable option for all countries of the Western Balkans. The article argues for a need that the new generation of post-Yugoslavs (re)consider for themselves the big promises of 1989 and 1991, and to try to either complete the process or—if not convinced of its worth—to begin imagining and conceptualizing a new one.


The Balkan Route (and Its Afterlife): The New Normal in the European Politics of Migration”, by Marco Zoppi, Marco Puleri, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, 24 (3): 576-593 (2022).

This article examines the political and policy-related developments regarding the Balkan Route intended both as a migration path and as a conceptual node where both symbolic and physical re-bordering processes converge. The article argues that these two processes represent the foundation on which the sum of the policies to address migration issues enacted in the last years are based: specific constructions of migrants and asylum seekers as well as of the Balkan region have shaped policies to push back migrants, eventually halting mobility and implementing containment in formal and informal camps in the region. This is not the result of challenges connected to ‘crises’ and ‘emergencies’, but rather the intended aim of both EU and non-EU national governments in the absence of more far-reaching strategies on migration and integration. These developments represent the political background of vulnerability and precariousness experienced by stranded migrants along the Balkan Route.


A “Hybrid Offensive” in the Balkans? Russia and the EU-led Kosovo-Serb Negotiations”, by Lance Davies, East European Politics, 38 (1): 576-593 (2022).

Recent analysis has interpreted Russia’s approach to the EU-led dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia through the lens of its actions in Ukraine. This has been characterised as “hybrid warfare” designed to disrupt the negotiations to prevent the integration of the Balkans into Western institutions. This article examines whether Russian actions in Ukraine have signalled a recalibration of Russia’s response to the Kosovo issue based on a repudiation of the EU-led dialogue. This article argues that while Russia’s behaviour has been shaped by its growing competition with the Western powers, its approach has been ambiguous and driven by a range of humanitarian, legal and security-based arguments rooted in the context of the Kosovo problem. These arguments have emerged as important trends in Russia’s behaviour and can be traced to its response to the Kosovo conflict in 1999. This article shows that there has not been a complete recalibration in Russia’s policy towards the dialogue. Russia’s approach has shown both continuity with these trends and a growing politicisation accelerated by the sharp decline in Russia’s relations with the West since 2014. In a broader sense, this article questions the intent and form of Russia’s actions in Ukraine as an explanatory framework for Russia’s behaviour elsewhere. 

Contesting the EU on the Periphery in Times of Crisis: Party-based Euroscepticism in Serbia”, by Marko Stojić, East European Politics, 38 (3): 358-381 (2022).

This article examines how Eurosceptic parties in Serbia framed the issue of “Europe” in their discourse during times of crisis. It identifies three main frames through which the EU has been problematised: socio-economic, political and cultural ones. While political framing dominated the discourse, distinct domestic circumstances had an important bearing on how each party criticised the Union. Serbia’s turbulent relationship with Western-based organisations and its status as a post-conflict and fragmented state greatly affected the way Eurosceptic parties portrayed the EU. At the same time, EU crises had a minor impact on party narratives in the Serbian context, suggesting that Eurosceptic party narratives in EU member states do not necessarily resonate with Eurosceptic parties outside the Union.



Autumn 2021


 “Regional security cooperation revisited: the Western Balkans as the future security provider, by Jelka Klemenc, Martin Hrabálek, Vladimir Đorđević, European Security 30 (2): 285–304, 2021.

Abstract: In this article, we offer a fresh look at the Western Balkans by addressing EU external governance with respect to a regional security cooperation perspective as a major EU external governance venue. We analyse how the said cooperation represents a positive example of EU rule transfer by paying attention to the results and to the level of regional ownership in the EU-Western Balkans security engagement. We pay tribute to the existing research on the EU external governance model with respect to regional cooperation and security and build our arguments by extending the said model. The said analysis represents the basis for our claims that the region has transformed from a consumer (of European security) into a security provider. Hence, the Western Balkans has witnessed an EU-induced security framework allowing it to build its capabilities and experience towards finding a more efficient role in the European security system and its governance. We aim to establish a basis for rethinking the concept of the EU-Western Balkans engagement from the Justice and Home Affairs perspective as the core element of what is described in EU strategic documents as EU external governance, outlining a more symmetric relationship between Brussels and the region.


The EU’s stability-democracy dilemma in the context of the problematic accession of the Western Balkan states, by Nicholas Ross Smith, Nina Marković Khaze, Maja Kovacevic, Journal of Contemporary European Studies 29 (2): 169–183, 2021. 

Abstract: The accession of the remaining six Western Balkan states into the EU is shrouded in much uncertainty. Despite Croatia finally traversing the difficult path to eventual membership in 2013, not one of the remaining Western Balkan countries can claim to be on a definite pathway to membership today. An increasingly prevalent argument is that the EU’s engagement with its neighbourhoods has faltered because its strategies have been undermined by an inherent stability-democracy dilemma. This article examines the EU’s engagement with the Western Balkans and finds that although the EU tried to transcend this dilemma, in reality, a tension between stability and democracy was present with the former generally receiving more attention in policymaking. This led to not only a lack of tangible democratization amongst the Western Balkan states, but further uncertainty about their accession prospects. By 2018, it was clear that the EU’s engagement with the Western Balkans needed a rethink, resulting in a new approach: the ‘Six Flagship Initiatives’. However, given the apprehensiveness of some member states (especially France) coupled with the presence of outsiders such as Russia and China in the area, the accession prospects of the six non-EU Western Balkan states remains blurred.


Bilateral relations in the Western Balkans as a challenge for EU accession, by Milenko Petrovic, Gareth Wilson, Journal of Contemporary European Studies 29 (2): 201–218, 2021.

Abstract: Although the European Union pledges to ‘maintain [and reaffirm] the credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans,’ some of the new requirements which it demands the Western Balkan candidate states to meet in order to gain membership seem to be very demanding for the political leaderships of these states. This is particularly the case for the requirement that candidate states solve all their ‘bilateral disputes … as a matter of urgency’. While Montenegro hopes to solve its only remaining (though nearly thirty year old) dispute with Croatia over their maritime border sometime soon, the second regional frontrunner for EU membership, Serbia, and the other remaining Western Balkan states (with the partial exception of Albania) have many more (and more serious) problems to resolve with their neighbours. This article discusses the nature and origins of problems in several most complex bilateral relationships in the Western Balkans and critically assesses the difficulty these problems pose for the Western Balkan states’ accession to the EU.


Balkan subjects in intervention literature: the politics of overrepresentation and reconstruction, by Katarina Kušić, Journal of International Relations and Development 24 (4): 910–931, 2021. 

Abstract: Postcolonial and decolonial critiques have highlighted the absence of non-Western people as active agents of politics from IR scholarship. These subjects, however, are present as constitutive others in narratives of liberalism, peace, and modernity. This article engages the traces of this presence by focusing on Balkan subjects in intervention literature that studies the far-reaching international involvement in Southeast Europe (SEE) since the 1990s. The article centres on two dimensions of Balkan subjecthood, antipolitics and positioning vis-à-vis Europe, found in two innovative texts that deal with international presence in the Balkans: Lene Hansen’s Security as Practice: Discourse analysis and the Bosnian war (2006) and Elizabeth Dauphinée’s The Politics of Exile (2013). In reconstructing the two dimensions of Balkan subjecthood, the article argues that provincialising IR from SEE requires breaking with the use of postcolonial thought as analogy in the region; it involves encounters with complex difference; and it commands rethinking what kind of knowledge is valorised in IR.


Trump sympathy in the Balkans: cross-border populist appeal, by Henry E. Hale, Ridvan Peshkopia, Mediterranean Politics, published online 9 August 2021. 

Abstract: Do populist leaders tend to win support from the same kinds of people abroad as they do at home? Since we know public opinion can shape foreign policy, the answer is important for understanding populists’ potential to carry out their typically anti-establishment international agendas. We address this question through original surveys in three Southeast European EU-aspiring countries on one populist leader (US President Donald Trump), establishing that the answer is a qualified yes: It depends on geopolitical orientation. In Albania, where local elites are perceived to be aligned with American elites, Trump supporters stand out for the same dispositions linked to him in the US, including intolerance and Euroscepticism. But in Serbia, where the American elites opposed by Trump’s own populism are seen as opposed to Serbia’s own establishment, patterns are remarkably different: Trump sympathizers generally stand out for tolerance, support for the EU, and a general trust in politicians. In Kosovo, these differences collapse into its deep ethnic divide between Albanians and Serbs.


Is China’s rising influence in the Western Balkans a threat to European integration?”, by Nina Markovic Khaze, Xiven Wang, Journal of Contemporary European Studies 29 (2): 234–250, 2021.

Abstract: China’s increased economic engagement with post-communist countries in the Western Balkans in the last decade has added to the complexity of democratic consolidation in the region, with possible negative impacts on the established process of European integration of these countries, foremost Serbia and Albania. This article addresses the impacts of the increased economic and to some extent political presence of China in the Western Balkan states over the past decade which has been exerted through both economic investment and trade incentives as well as a more sophisticated use of China’s soft power. The latter is exemplified in the greater number of cultural, educational and scientific exchanges between these states and China within the 16 + 1 (17 + 1 after 2018) cooperation framework and bilaterally. The article discusses China’s engagement with the Western Balkan countries on a case-by-case basis. The cases of Croatia, as an EU member, and of Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia, as official candidates for EU membership, are examined to show the impact of the relationship with China on these states’ adherence to the European integration process.


The Game: Or, ‘the making of migration’ along the Balkan Route, by Claudio Minca, Jessica Collins, Political Geography 91, 2021. 

Abstract: ‘The Game’ is how many refugees describe their attempts to informally travel to Western Europe via the so-called Balkan Route. This article conceptualises The Game as a spatial tactic implemented by refugees as a response to the impossibility of legally entering the EU and as a gray area in the governance of informal migrant mobilities. It does so by engaging with the recent literature on the Balkan Route to analyse how The Game has been performed and ‘managed’ in Serbia, a key ‘buffer state’ along this corridor. Drawing from Tazzioli’s work on ‘The Making of Migration’, and in particular on her understanding of refugee forced mobility as a form of ‘migrant management’ on the part of the authorities, this article shows how the ambivalent connotations of The Game reveal the troubling configurations of EU border politics and of its formal and informal geopolitical arrangements. At the same time, it argues that the practices related to The Game ultimately reflect the extraordinary determination of the refugees in creating new itineraries, spatial interstices, invisible networks and ‘holes in the border walls’ that allow them, despite all the difficulties, to challenge such border politics. We conclude by proposing to understand The Game as part of the biopolitics of migration and by suggesting that it represents a powerful manifestation of the condition (and the field of possibility) of thousands of refugees along the Balkan Route today.


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