Greece’s renewed involvement in the Western Balkans

Athens; Photo: WikiCommons / Christophe Meneboeuf

ATHENS – Greece has to play what is by and large a European game, writes Alexis Papachelas, in his article for Kathimerini daily.

He refers to the resurrected discussions on solving the name issue between Greece and Macedonia as part of a geopolitical game that is being played out in the region by multiple players.

“The European leadership – Berlin, Brussels and the other important players – believes that 2018 will be a crucial year for the bloc’s interests in this neighborhood”, notes Papachelas.

Whereas Russia and Turkey see the Western Balkans as a possible foothold and employ cultural affinity, inter alia, to control respective peoples in the region, China manifests its interests “in a quieter manner, with major infrastructure investments in the context of the Silk Road initiative”.

“The US has influence in and knowledge of the region, but it is not yet clear how much significance it wants to give it. So far, it seems that the Balkan “account” is being handled by Vice President Mike Pence”, he adds.

As for the Euro-Atlantic integration of the region, the major prerequisite for the accession of the Western Balkan countries into the EU and NATO is “that the many historical differences dividing these countries are settled”.

Kosovo’s status vis-à-vis Serbia and the case of Macedonia are among the issues to be settled.

However, in case of Macedonia, Papachelas adds that the domestic pressures will be significant in both Greece and Macedonia.

“Athens has a strong hand because of developments but is weakened by the economic crisis. And the international players will play hardball in this game of geopolitical poker that has only just begun”, he concludes.