Mediterranean Quarterly 14.2 (2003) 15-20
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Is the War in Kosovo the Last Balkan War?
The dissolution of former Yugoslavia, having taken a radical pattern, has been not a single act of historical adaptation for the region and its nations but rather a process of profound impact. It will continue to determine the overall developments in the Balkans for generations to come. In the early 1990s, it was clear that the socialist states of Europe were at the brink of a complex and time-consuming transition into new democratic and free-economy systems. In itself, this was a dramatic transformation, but it should also have been realistic to expect that the dissolution of Yugoslavia would carry a delicate potential, which, if not controlled, could produce a wider crisis.
The peaceful scenario that determined the outcome of the nation-building process in Czechoslovakia could not be effectuated in the Yugoslav case. The reasons are many; some are traceable to the economic sphere, others to the complexity of the nation-building process under the negative influence of the international community, and still others to geostrategic and geopolitical considerations. In any case, even circumstantial analyses have come to the same conclusion that the continual process of economic, social, and political development of the Balkans will be deeply influenced far into the future by the events that emanate from the radical dissolution of the former Yugoslavia.
A productive transition to what the people of the Balkans expect to be a stable and more prosperous society is not possible without predictable and permanent economic advance. This is an essential precondition, since it would be very difficult to see how stability and democratic development can [End Page 15] survive in the region if conditions are not created in which economic growth becomes central to the overall development. Unfortunately, the transition so far has been marked by decline in the Balkans, particularly in the former Yugoslav republics (with the exception of Slovenia) and Albania. In fact, the economic growth rate has been negative for all the former communist Balkan states, creating clear and overwhelming conditions for political and social crises.
In Central Europe, the overwhelming reality of low growth and scant investment adversely affects the overall political and social advancement. But in the case of the Balkans, developmental aid and the economic presence of the international community was and still is inconsequential while war, further complicated by the radical pattern of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, destroyed not only human lives but economic prospects as well.
The very fact that the republics of former Yugoslavia were constitutive parts of one interdependent economic system subjected them to untold suffering when the federation ceased to exist and wars were fought by one against another. Furthermore, economic reforms, so essential to an effective transitional process, could not be carried on successfully under the circumstances of turmoil and war. Taking into consideration that economic reform is not an isolated process but rather part of a very complex set of political and social circumstances, it becomes clear that the stagnation of the region is not only a product of the radical dissolution of Yugoslavia but also a potential generator of long-term crisis in its own right. These societies, burdened by negative economic tendencies and long-term economic insufficiencies, have become unattractive for foreign investment and economic integration into existing European associations. Although the presence of the international community is essential due to security considerations, thus far it too has failed to improve economic conditions, creating doubts about its effectiveness.
Without economic development as a dynamic force, it will not be possible to achieve the historic transformation so essential for the future of the Balkan nations. Inevitably, this leads to the conclusion that prolonged periods of economic crisis not only cause social problems but also contribute to political and security crises as well. [End Page 16]
Nation Building and Political Issues
The pursuit of national self-determination as a means for elites to exercise political power is an enduring political trait in former Yugoslavia and the Balkans. The dissolution of the...