The Western Balkans is a key region in security, defence, economic and political terms. It is at an important geopolitical position at the heart of Europe and the Western world; however, it is largely not integrated into Euro-Atlantic structures and there is a relatively limited engagement from key Western countries.
The UK, with its current focus on ‘Global Britain’, often seems to leave a Europe-shaped hole in its strategy. While it was good to see Prime Minister Boris Johnson referring to the Western Balkans in his Parliamentary statement last year on the FCO/DfID merger, concrete steps need to be taken in cooperation with our partners.
On the other hand, France and Germany appear exhausted with the enlargement of the EU, though they do offer a potential solution with President Macron’s idea of a ‘Europe of circles’ - a concept that could be expedited for this region as part of a solution to continue supporting its pro-democratic direction.
Nevertheless, the Western Balkans are currently seeing increasing interest and involvement from other global powers, including Russia, China, and Turkey.
Considering the importance of the Western Balkans and our strategic interests in the region, it is essential for the UK to engage further with the countries of this key area. To ensure effective impact it is also important to cooperate with allies, especially the EU (including both the European institutions and EU member states) and the USA, given their involvement in the region.
The Western Balkans are at a key moment in history which will decide their future direction for the long-term. The UK and its partners must move quickly and firmly to support the democratic direction of the Western Balkans and offer a clear strategic advantage to the region in contrast to short-term gains offered by other actors.