The Western Balkans is a particularly vulnerable region to hybrid threats. Hybrid threat activity targets democratic states, and especially states where the democratization process is still ongoing. Moreover, the Western Balkan region is a sphere for geopolitical competition, where opposing actors’ strategic interests cross.
The Western Balkans trend report identifies three trends, which increase the region’s vulnerability to hybrid threats: the increasing feeling of rejection by the previously attractive EU, the strengthening effect of persistent pain and fragile healing-process from past atrocities and the remaining socio-economic instability. These vulnerabilities are exploited by hybrid threat actors, most often by means of information influencing, economic leverage building and disturbance to social cohesion.
The trend report is directed especially towards the EU. It brings forth that the EU’s model, which bases on a free-market economy and liberal democracy, is viewed with increased scepticism in the region. The feelings of resentment and disappointment towards the EU are increasing. This trend, combined with the increasing attraction towards an authoritarian state model, will complicate the democratization process. Furthermore, it will structure the economy towards “clan” ownership and state control, and deepen the geopolitical competition in the region.
Hybrid CoE Trend Reports are an outcome of expert-pool meetings. They highlight the main trends of the expert pool’s specific theme and provide multiple perspectives on current challenges. They deepen the academic discourse on the topic, and serve as background material for policymakers. They aim to distinguish between what really constitutes a threat, what appears to be a threat but is not necessarily one and what has the potential to become a threat. Hybrid CoE’s Research and Analysis engages expert-pools on relevant themes in the landscape of hybrid threats.
The Hybrid CoE pool of Western Balkan experts currently consists of thirteen experts from Hybrid CoE participating states, the EU and NATO. It builds on a multi-disciplinary and multinational view in order to best identify and comprehend hybrid threats. In the two meetings the Western Balkan experts have had, the Hybrid CoE Research and Analysis function has led discussion on the European Union’s six flagship initiatives. The iniatives aim to support the transformation process in the Western Balkans in the fields of the rule of law, security and immigration, socio-economic development, connectivity, digital agenda and good neighbourly relations.
The complete Trend Report can be downloaded from HERE.