Since 1945, Europe has done a remarkably good job at avoiding war. Between European neighbours (if not with the rest of the world) there have been few major conflicts since the end of the Second World War. That’s not to say there haven’t been any wars in Europe post-1945, of course; see the Greek Civil War, the wars in Chechnya, the War in Donbass, to name just a few.

Some of the worst violence in Europe since World War II has taken place in the Western Balkans, both during and after the collapse of Yugoslavia. Yet, since 2001, the “credible promise” of EU membership has provided an incentive for peace and reconciliation.

In recent years, however, relations have been tense. In 2018, for example, Serbia’s prime minister warned that the formation of a Kosovo army might trigger armed intervention (a warning ignored by Kosovo). Before that, in 2017, Kosovo and Serbia were brought to the “brink of conflict” by a provocatively-painted train.

Could these tensions ever tip over into war? Some European leaders are clearly worried about the possibility of renewed conflict in the Western Balkans. French President Emmanuel Macron got himself into hot water in 2019 by calling Bosnia a “ticking time bomb”. This was at the same time that the promise of EU accession became less credible, following French-led efforts to block membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania (a move some analysts believe threatens peace in the region).

What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Jon, who worries about the possibility of another conflict breaking out in the Western Balkans. Is that a realistic possibility, particularly with the accession process seemingly stalled?

To get a reaction, we put Jon’s comment to Christian Danielsson, Director General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR) at the European Commission, when we spoke to him at Friends of Europe’s Balkan Summit in December 2019. What would he say?

No, I don’t think so. I think we should always be concerned about seeing to the stability of the Western Balkans, and that’s what the EU accession process is about. So, that’s how I see it; I don’t see any reason to fear a conflict in the Western Balkans.

For another perspective, we also put Jon’s question to Bernard Nikaj, Ambassador of Kosovo to Belgium and Luxembourg, and acting Head of the Kosovo Mission to the European Union and NATO. What would he say?

Finally, we put Jon’s comment to Velma Šarić, founder and president of the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC), a Sarajevo-based non-governmental organisation promoting stronger inter-ethnic relations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. What does she think?

Are we heading towards a war in the Balkans? Or is there no reason to fear another conflict in the region? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: WikiMedia – (cc) SUHEJLO; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Danielsson – (cc) Friends of Europe

43 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Is this a serious question?

    • avatar


    • avatar

      yea…nanh… If you look for any possible combination of conflicting sides, both of them would avoid direct military conflict because stakes would progressivly start to rise beyond their control, even to the point that bigger one would rise in its stead. Example for that would be Kosovo and Serbia. Alltough the are not members of certains block, soon you would have Albania (Nato) on the Kosovars side, what would give a legit causus belli for NATO to interfere in conflict. Maybe not in the full military aspect but in some way definetly, that would surely put Serbia in difficult position.

    • avatar

      Literally that’s what that stupid country Serbia wants to destroy Kosovo and to get the country for itself n not let any Albanians live in peace even tho how much they has destroyed and killed 20 years ago stilll wanna do the same thing

  2. avatar

    I am not sure war but it seems that Bosnia but Belgium are having similar propbability of getting dissolved.

  3. avatar

    War in balkan would not happen soon,hopefully never

  4. avatar

    Why?! Geostrategic games again?….

    • avatar

      Probably my friend, balka is a chessboard, the players….
      I think you know who they are…

  5. avatar

    Maybe not an open war but a general unrest in the area. USA and Germany sponsored the last war but were unable to finish it properly, leaving mountains of hate in the Balkans. The EU can’t force other countries to adopt OUR fake democracy and leave what is better for them…Remember the arab spring and Gadaffi…now Libia is one of our main problems.

  6. avatar

    As long USA wants to rule Europe’s policy we will have and see some countries that need their freedom and democracy instaled. i.e. war

    • avatar

      News flash: bloody wars in the Balkans have existed more than 1 000 years before America was discovered(!!!), and have decreased in number since USA is a world superpower. Actually USA with Nato managed to stop a bloodshed in Kosovo 1999. While they do stuff and make stuff happen, civilians with no knowledge on neither history of the Balkans nor military technicalities whine on how USA interventions were not fairytale-perfect.
      Sorry but your view is wrong from it’s very fundaments.
      Balkans are living a relatively good time regarding conflicts and I hope they will learn to cooperate with each other and make better times come.

    • avatar

      the fact theres a guy crying about how there was nothing wrong with the nato bombing is insane first of all nato means that if any country in nato is attacked others will help it no nato country was attacked next nato needs aprooval from the UN before carrying out any act of war none of thsoe factors were met you killed 6000 civilians for a military base and helped a terrorist group

  7. avatar

    War in Balkans is unthinkable. It will mean the end of the world with nuclear installations everywhere

    • avatar

      George – really?

  8. avatar

    Bombs in Zaventem airport…
    Bombs in Maelbeek metro station. ..
    But still, you live in another world and questioning about wars anywhere else…

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      HI Stefanos, is there a war in Brussels?

    • avatar

      Debating Europe 35 killed and 340 injured. How do you call this?

    • avatar

      Debating Europe it depends on how much the authorities would cover the situation. Jews and Arabs, Russian and Americans are also in war, since the fourties, but they do not call it “war” in the popular sense. Ofcourse, a war would require armies, a front and so on, but it seems that war adopted several different faces during last and actual century

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      What’s your definition of a war?

  9. avatar

    Main problem in the Balkans are depopulation and social degrade, not danger of war.
    People of the Balkans live in relatively peaceful times and if they learn to build and to cooperate, better times will be ahead.

    • avatar

      Dio … until they are told to do so…

  10. avatar

    The first sentence of the article is contradicted by the end of the paragraph…

    • avatar

      Debating Europe You are operating with extremly specific definitions of war. Yes, there have been far less cavalry charges in that timeframe, but how relevant are the methods if making war of definitions of it, when different the states of war are afecting the fabric of society?

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Surely not if you compare the periods 1900-1945 to 1946-2020? Or, indeed, if you compare postwar Europe to other parts of the world, such as Africa, the Middle East, or Asia?

  11. avatar

    There are tensions in SE Mediterranean and North Africa that could potentially trigger issues in the Balkans as well. Hope not.

  12. avatar

    Are we heading towards a war between France and Germany? Come on… Do some research before publishing content with such a title… That’s so wrong. Quoting E. Macron on such a topic shows a lot of lack of understanding of the region…
    To put in a nutshell, all these “tensions” that you mention (the train, the army thing) are actually political tools so that leaders maintain focus on nationalistic issues and so that people don’t start worrying too much about the bad economic situation, unemployment or social rights. They serve all leaders in the region and thanks to that they get re-elected, in a scheme of amazing stability actually. Look at who’s ruling Montenegro for instance since its independence.
    But of course talking about war and tensions is always more appealing and fuels fantasies of people who didn’t experience the 90s in the Balkans.
    Simon Granger The question you ask here is extremely eye-catching and represents all against what Maria Todorova writes in her book, Imagining the Balkans. I would recommend you to read it before writing and keeping such a title.
    Besides, on the French position, you should also document yourself and find about the French strategy for the Western Balkans, the opening of an office of the French development agency there, the diplomatic presence in the region too.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Simon! The experts we interviewed did agree there was little to no chance of another conflict occurring, and we made sure to publish their responses in full. However, we don’t think it’s an unreasonable question to ask (particularly as we know people are coming to our website looking for answers to precisely this question). Certainly, there is a serious question as to what impact the French-led efforts to slow down / pause the accession process might have, including on peace and security in the region.

  13. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Do we need “Balkan warmongering” to frighten Balkan Nations into an over-promising EU concept?

    • History tells us Germany started both WWI and WWII.

    • Germany today- or “Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland” has been “thoroughly” pacified and can be ignored as an instigator for another war.

    • The morally negative & destructive influence on its population by the former Marxist USSR & Warsaw Pact (1955-1991) should not be discounted.

    • NATO article 4 & 5 protects all Members to act “foolishly”

    • NATO consists of 29 Members- some are in the Balkans.

    • Unfortunately, many Balkan Nations have questionable pockets of- corrupt, Mafioso like habits and lack the comparable (higher) EU moral & ethical governing standards.

    • Disingenuous, bribed & gullible Balkan leaders should be exposed & shown the exit door- regardless.

    Only yesterday’s fools would dare to venture into a modern Balkan war! It is highly improper and (near) impossible.

    The poor Balkans could have become highly productive European regions- instead of taking the EU production & work to China!

    The fact- they are mainly used for domestic work in the rest of the EU- instead.

  14. avatar
    Maia Alexandrova

    No. People on the Balkans are busy building their economic prosperity. Wars are not part of that future. Blocking some countries from EU membership may push them into looking for other possibilities and closer co-operation with other countries, but not war. This is too extreme. People on the Balkans have had more than enough wars and suffering to want more of them.

  15. avatar

    The real problem lies with the Greek borders and the thousands immigrants coming to Europe from more than 70 different countries. Time for EU summits to take some action in favor of its borders and stop giving billions to Turkey

  16. avatar

    Ask en another question.
    Is it dangerous for Balkan if Germany continues kissing turkeys ass?

  17. avatar

    No’ no time for war, go out my friend and chill yourself and think for positive things instead of the war! Why always we have to think bad thinks for others, in the time we are ok. People with the minds like yours making wars. Go and spend some time with Balkans young people it will be good for your mindset…

  18. avatar
    Jake the peg

    all of you guys above need to get real. syria, greece,afghanistan. So you very clever chappies are saying no crisis? I thinks most of the above comments are crap and not worthy of a comment

  19. avatar

    There will be another war as long as the Serbians want SRP to leave Bosnia and are military backed by Russia and they just received 1 billion dollars in support this will start to gain momentum for Serbian Bosnians to break away to make a greater Serbia

  20. avatar

    There won’t be a war in the Balkans,between Croatia,Bosnia and Serbia there is 100% not a another war,every single country has it’s defenders :(Serbia=Russia,China… Croatia=NATO,EU… Bosnia=Turkey,Iran,Saudi Arabia…)
    Between Albania,Kosovo and Serbia,the same thing goes for that..(if i
    misspelled something,sorry)Also everybody is chill with each other soo that also kicks in :D

    • avatar
      ella brković

      I agree with everyone having their ‘defenders’ but I wouldn’t say everyone is chill with each other. Sure, the majority of people are on good terms, no hate in their hearts, but looking at the relations between Serbia-Kosovo-Albania I wouldn’t say there’s any thing positive to be found. It’s an everlasting problem and if NATO wouldn’t exist there would surely be more conflict (in my opinion).

      Anyway, from my personal experience, ethnic Balkan people living in other countries (such as Austria, Germany, Switzerland, etc.) are more hateful towards each other than their relatives who live in the Balkans, even the youth.. or especially the youth.

  21. avatar
    Frank Keys

    Imust admit i fear not only the Ex yugoslavia could go on another nationalistic suicide crusade,But i fear nationalists in the EU could well cause many problems in the near future.Living in the UK its hard not to the amount of flag waving is a real and dangerous threat.

  22. avatar

    In this moment when you think that everything is OK there, Serbia is getting new weapons from China and Russia and Serb politicians in Bosnia are threatening with secession in that country. Check the facts!

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