|"NATO and the Western Balkans: New Strategy, Old Challenges."|
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is set to finalize the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept this week at the LisbonSummit (19-20 November). The current Strategic Concept was fashioned in April 1999, heavily influenced by the Alliance’s interventions in former Yugoslavia. Since then, NATO troops have helped keep the peace in the region, Western Balkan countries have contributed hundreds of troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the promise of NATO membership has spurred the countries of the region to adopt security and political reforms that will hopefully consolidate their nascent democracies.
But all is not well in the Balkans. A series of problems from incomplete reforms and unconsolidated democratic institutions still plague the region. Political gridlock in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the ongoing name dispute between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Greece, Kosovo’s ambiguous status and the implications for Serbia are manifestations of the region’s persistent divides. Even the prospect of NATO membership has not prevented the deterioration of relations and deepening of divisions between ethnicities, elites and publics throughout the region. As a recent New York Times op-ed put it, “The Balkans can still be lost.”
In preparation for the Lisbon Summit, The Athens Working Group: Transforming the Balkans has prepared materials briefing the media, policymakers and the public about the state of NATO-Western Balkans relations. Below you will find a primer on NATO enlargement and guides to where each country stands vis-à-vis NATO and their internal dynamics surrounding relations with the Alliance.