The European future of the Western Balkans: 20 years after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords

December 2015 saw the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords for Bosnia and Hercegovina. Twenty years on the six non-EU countries of the Western Balkans (Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, all from the former Yugoslavia, plus Albania) aspire to join the Union. The article examines the geographical, linguistic, and historical currents that shaped the region and looks at themes from the last twenty five years that resonate more broadly in international crises today: confronting aggression, the impact of sanctions, “liberal imperialism,” weak institutions, the stress of war, identity confusion, and the future of Europe. The article concludes that to avoid a return to violence in the next 20 years, the region needs to be part of wider European governance. For this to be achieved, we need more than two day summits but more pro-active engagement from all sides perhaps returning to the 19th century model of a Congress.

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