A sad centennial: Unfinished peace in the Balkans

Western leaders and heads of Yugoslavia’s successor states sign Dayton peace agreement
Dec. 14, 1995: The signing of the Dayton Agreement in Paris ended the worst of the post-Yugoslav wars, but the hard work of reconciliation is yet to come (source: dpa)
  • International monitoring and development aid have helped keep peace in the Balkans
  • However, the structural steps needed to reconcile former enemies have not been taken
  • The stalled transition has allowed corruption and mafia-like power structures to flourish
  • Strong U.S. commitment is needed to draw the whole region into the Western orbit

Nearly a hundred years after the end of World War I, the Western Balkans find themselves coping with another botched peace settlement. Europe’s most troubled region is stuck in an incomplete transition from the post-Yugoslav Wars to functioning democracies. There has been no real reconciliation, no agreement on war reparations, and no equitable distribution of Yugoslav assets to the successor states. Tying up these loose ends could take another two decades, if it is done at all.

Real reconciliation is still in its initial phase. The European Union, through its Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) launched in 1999, tried to draw former wartime enemies into a regional framework to prepare for possible accession. With the adoption of its EU-Western Balkans Strategy in February 2018, the European Commission made clear that there will be no accession of new members without resolving their mutual differences.

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