Albania between Western Balkans Regionalization and European Integration

Ilir Kalemaj


Different local observers like Koneska (2007), Bechev (2011) and others have argued that there is a missing regional identity in the Southeastern Europe region, where both leaders and masses are reluctant to identify with the (Western) Balkan label, which is often connected to corruption, state capture, organized crime and other remedies that are deemed simultaneous obstacles to the path of democratization, rule of law and the EU integration. Albania, because of its idiosyncratic characteristics, it escaped unscathed the (former) Yugoslav wars and has not faced identity and nation-building challenges like its Western Balkan neighbors. These characteristics include inter alia the ethnic homogeneity and mass migration after the isolation of Communism. However, Albania has been part of the same web, with the same transition difficulties as its immediate Balkan neighbors. Because of these reasons, as well as geographical, historical and cultural, the regional identity that would have fostered a more sustainable regional cooperation between Albania and some of its neighbors has ranged from problematic to non-existent, with only recent glimpses of hope for future relations that would seek to create a notion of regional community. These include both top-dawn efforts, ranging from the series of meetings between Albania`s premier Rama and his Serbian counterpart Vucić, trying to normalize the relations between the two countries, to projects such as the Balkan Union or “Balkan Schengen”, although they still are at the level of initiative and remain to be materialized. Other projects include bottom-up drives, such as the “Balkan Benelux” or trade networks such as CEFTA, with limited results. The EU’s conditionality approach has been instrumental in the process, complimenting the U.S., NATO and other international actors` role in the process of ameliorating the neighbor relations in the region and moving fast ahead with regional cooperation, hopping that it would foster a regional identity in the near future. The present paper concentrates on how regional cooperation has affected Albania and its relations with the Western Balkan neighbors and what is to be expected in the near future.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2016.v7n6p281

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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