Received 29.12.2021. Revised 04.04.2022. Accepted 21.04.2022.
Acknowledgments: to Arbatova N.K. for help in preparation of the article.
Abstract. The article analyses influence of the pandemics on economic and political developments as well as on the conflict resolution process in the Western Balkan (WB) region. The unprecedented epidemiological conditions of the years 2020–2021 led to utter deterioration of regional economic rates. Serbia can be named as the only exception with its GDP growth in 2020 (although also negative) higher than the regional and, moreover, European average. Negative political consequences of the two recent years with COVID‑19, observed in the article, range from the rise of “covidocracy”, namely strengthening of executive institutions at the expense of the local parliaments, courts and media freedom, to the landmark changes in political elites of Montenegro and Kosovo as well as deterioration of conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia. The pandemics has also negatively affected the pace of the European integration process in the region. The slowdown was connected both with turbulences inside the EU given its initial lack of solidarity and with an attempt to address the crisis on the national rather than on the European level, its consequent emphasis on the internal rather than external development. The EU perspective as such has grown more distant from the Western Balkans. Yet, regional cooperation with the introduction of the “Open Balkans” initiative has accelerated, which has been designed to bring the WB countries closer to the European common market. At the same time, the pandemics significantly strengthened Russian and Chinese presence in the region, which provoked the EU into geopolitical race. The author comes to a conclusion, however, that eventually, the European assistance can be characterized as systemic and structural, masterminded within the context of future WB integration in the EU institutions. Nevertheless, European mediation in the situation of stalemate in Belgrade–Pristina negotiations could not prevent serious degradation of the conflict over Kosovo’s status. In Bosnia, former High Representative’s imposition of the Genocide denial ban also sparked off the crisis, which puts the future of a unified Bosnian state into question. These negative developments in conflict management, to some extent triggered by the pandemics, can impair stabilization process and security in the Western Balkans.
Keywords: pandemics, Western Balkans, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Security, European Union
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