The Stability Pact and the Future of the Balkans

by Aristotle Tziampiris[*]

(“Ependytis”, 27 January, 2001)

The Stability pact for South Eastern Europe (SEE), although not widely known to the public, comprises the international community’s main effort to reconstruct the Balkans.

The Stability Pact overall consists a positive development for the Balkans. However, there have been delays and issues neglected, while several dangers also loom. From them however, opportunities for an upgraded Greek role arise. More specifically:

  1. The stabilization of the Balkans will be a long process, akin to a marathon. The enthusiasm that today exists within the countries of SEE could relatively easily turn into disappointment. Greece should thus inform and encourage these states.
  2. Greece should continue to recommend and fund programs within the Stability Pact’s framework. Innovative initiatives such as the Greek Plan to Reconstruct the Balkans by the Ministry of National Economy are welcome, and should continue in the future.
  3. The role of Thessaloniki in this effort should be upgraded in such a way, so that the international community can take full advantage of the city’s geo-strategic position and importance. Today, Thessaloniki holds the European office for the economic reconstruction of the Balkans, which is responsible for Kosovo. These responsibilities should be extended to include the rebuilding of Serbia and Montenegro.
  4. Greek businesses and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) should follow closely developments and projects, especially in the Table for Democratization and Human Rights that is headed by a Greek, Mr. Roumeliotis. Furthermore, the Stability Pact must increase funding for projects under this Table, and not only focus on the building of infrastructure.
  5. Greece can cooperate with third countries within the Stability’s framework, and also support SEE states in their efforts to join the European Union. After all, stability in the Balkans services our national interest in the best possible way. However, we must ask for specific trade-offs on bilateral issues that we consider of importance to our country, without of course causing damaging side-effects to the wider region. Such a policy is now feasible, because of Greece’s upgraded role and the increased bargaining power in SEE.
  6. Finally, our country must stress the importance of the ‘Albanian Factor’, that is of Albanian nationalist irredentism, which constitutes the most important source of instability in the Balkans. The change of borders must be avoided, since it will most likely be accompanied by violent clashes. Having a deep knowledge of the region, Greece can suggest specific measures that would decrease the lure of Albanian nationalism, highlighting a different path to prosperity and a EU future for Kosovo, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The Stability Pact (in conjunction with the efforts of the EU and Greece), could prove the catalyst, so that the states of the region, ‘in the fullness of time’ will be characterized by democratic stability, economic growth, military security and, eventually, European Union membership. In any case, the role of Greece, and more specifically the role of Thessaloniki, can and must be greater.

* Aristotle Tziampiris is Visiting Lecturer at the International and European Studies Department of the University of Piraeus and Research Fellow at Hellenic Foundation For European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). [Top]

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