Rude Awakening

by Giorgos Kapopoulos

(“Kathimerini”, English Edition, February 28, 2001)

Only one impetus could bolster Balkan cooperation beyond the level of summit meetings. This is, no doubt, the realization by the political elites of the interested countries that the reinforcement of regional cooperation is not an option which will delay EU and NATO accession - these are anyway remote probabilities for Eastern European states for the foreseeable future - but rather a precondition for a pragmatic approach with the Euro-Atlantic community. The end of the Cold War and the political changeover in the Balkan states... drove the majority of our northern neighbors to dangerous delusions regarding the leverage and the strategic importance of their states in the new balance of power.

Virtually all states which emerged from the dissolution of Yugoslavia inherited the arrogance and self-confidence of the Tito era when Belgrade sought to establish a substantial role between the US and the USSR. Belgrade, Skopje and Zagreb overestimated the strength of their countries and were taken away by geopolitical fantasies driven by the conviction that cross-Atlantic and intra-European friction as well as antagonism between the West and Moscow would bolster their bargaining power...

Today, 10 years after the outbreak of the Yugoslavian crisis, Balkan leaders are forced to a rude awakening. Delusions about special relationships with the powerful states have been dashed and regional cooperation emerges as the only realistic option...

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