SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE BULLETIN – Vol. 2, Issue 1, September 2013

This is the first issue of the “MONTHLY BULLETIN” for the 2013 year published by the renewed team of Southeastern Europe Intelligence Unit of the Institute for Security & Defense Analysis. It is really encouraging and hopeful that young researchers carrying excellent scientific qualifications have the opportunity and the necessary support to present their researches and to express their point of views.

Our region is witnessing significant developments and changes affecting the stability, security and prosperity not only of the Balkan peninsula but of the European continent, the Arabic countries of North Africa, and the Middle East as well. Being the link between these regions; Southeast Europe is the security sub-system which affects directly to the security and stability of the wider system called from many experts as “Eastern Mediterranean Sea security system”. To support my opinion I quote two typical examples; the first one is associated with the revolution of the Libyan people against  Gaddafi’s regime. When the NATO forces decided to intervene and bomb Libya they used as forward military airbase the Greek island of Crete and the existed infrastructure of the Suda’s naval  establishments. As a second example Turkey and Bulgaria received thousands of Syrian refugees due to the civil war in their country while Greece became the main entrance of a huge wave of illegal immigrants from the suffering state.

Moreover a new dimension upgrades the geopolitical and strategic value of Southeast Europe. The region becomes energy hub through the pipeline projects transporting oil and natural gas from the Black and Caspian seas (Trans Adriatic Pipeline, South Stream) contributing to energy security of the Central and Western Europe. Apart from that the recent discovery of significant natural gas deposits in the seabed of Cyprus (and the reasonable suspicions that the Greek seas also “hide” considerable amounts of hydrocarbons and natural gas) turns Southeast Europe into an energy resources producer. Having in mind that both countries (Greece and Cyprus) are E.U members one should realize that they may “shield” the energy self-sufficiency of the Union.

Under these circumstances it seems that the region of Southeast Europe recaptures its “old grandeur” as a “key player” of the international chessboard and brings together the eyes of the modern great powers. Although it is widespread the idea that there is limited interest for the geopolitical and geoeconomic developments in Southeast Europe by the powerful states of our world I have a strong feeling that this point of view has never been reflected to reality. The wider region of the Balkan peninsula due to its strategic position is always a point of rivalries and strong countries such as the U.S,
Russia, Germany, Great Britain try to bring it within their sphere of influence. Needless to mention that the region is under the total control and influence of the U.S.A; an effort which started after the end of the World War II and successfully completed after the collapse of Communism in the countries of Eastern Europe.

The question what is the situation in Southeast Europe is a widely spoken one with controversial answers. Trying to describe it shortly it comes into my mind the phrase “marching into unknown crossroads not knowing which direction to go”. The economic crisis badly affected Greece and Cyprus while Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina face strong pressures. Romania is on the way to request a new IMF loan; without overlooking the bad situation of the Serbian, Albanian, Moldovan, Montenegrin and Kosovo economies. The public discontent has scattered everywhere due to the fact that people could not see a hopeful future. The absence of social security and care enforces the public dissatisfaction and it becomes factor of political instability. Moreover it provides fertile soil for the emergence of radical ways of reactions. Religious rivalries, nationalisms, terrorism and political parties with radical rhetoric appeared setting the necessary “ingredients” for an explosive mixture with unpredictable consequences.

Croatia entered triumphantly the E.U on July 1st, 2013 and became the second country (after Slovenia) of the so-called “Western Balkans” that achieved access to the Union. However the European integration of the “Western Balkans” seems that has stuck. Albania is getting closer and closer to enter the E.U while Serbia wishes to start accession negotiations in 2014. F.Y.R.O.M still looks for identity and is trapped in the “name” dispute against Greece. Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo are far enough from accession talks with the E.U because of their own special reasons. Finally Turkey seems that has accepted the reality which is out of the E.U and the “closed club” of the European countries. Under these circumstances it is absolutely explicable why the public opinion in these countries has started to form an opinion rather against the accession to the E.U.

Kosovo is marching ahead to local elections scheduled for November 3rd, 2013; a strong test regarding the Belgrade – Pristina approach in order to solve their existing dispute. The assassination of a EULEX officer in North Kosovo is not a good sign and in fact complicates the dialogue process between the two sides. At the same time demonstrations broke up in Croatia from people who reacted in the use of Cyrillic letters in state’s symbols. Turkey faces security challenges such as the tense situation with Syria and the Government’s efforts to solve peacefully the Kurdish problem. Prime Minister
Erdogan announced a “package of democratic reforms” which brought heavy reactions from the opposition parties. September was a month of mobility regarding the “name” dispute between Greece and F.Y.R.O.M. The U.N special envoy Matthew Nimetz had talks with both sides but it seems that the atmosphere is not mature enough for improvement.

Entering in a “crossroad” of critical developments for the region our team closely monitors all topics that may provoke rapid and catalytic changes with direct effect in the peace and stability in Southeast Europe. Providing information and analysis on weekly and monthly basis we aspire to become an objective, reliable and essential factor of knowledge regarding our challenging and turbulent neighborhood.

By Ioannis Karampelas,
Head & Coordinator of Southeastern Europe Intelligence Unit

The Role of Greek Orthodox Church in Greece
By Ioannis Papageorgiou

Islamism in Greece: Political, Social and Security
By Ioannis Michaletos

The Albanian Foreign Policy: Challenges and Priorities
By Fani Kotzamani

Media Freedom in Southeastern Europe: In Progress or in Crisis?
By Konstantina Keramitsi

Read the full issue here.