External influences in the Western Balkans: Where are we at?

Balkan Focus Series

Policy Brief


Alongside the EU accession path, other third countries have managed to create the conditions to expand their spheres of influence to the Western Balkans. Ethnic fragmentation, weak economic conditions and widespread cases of corruption created fertile soil for non-EU-aligned actors to enter regional dynamics and attempt to fill regional power vacuums

Multiple strategies have been adopted. These go from the use of diplomacy to direct financial investments; from promoting cultural adherence to establishing forms of economic dependence. The main actors involved in the process are Russia, China, Turkey and the Gulf States, all using different tools and capacities to pursue their objectives. 

The EU complex principles of conditionality and long negotiation processes have worsened the institutional and motivational obstacles to pursuing a smooth European path. Nevertheless, the conflict in Ukraine and the most recent global development, have led the EU to overcome political and institutional minutiae to work on reaching its main regional interests: security and stability. This policy brief focuses on the presence of external actors in the Western Balkan region, the interests and ambitions behind their manoeuvres and the direct consequences for the European Union.

Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale (CeSPI)
Karl Renner Institut
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