Modernity and Development

The Legacy of Delayed Development

The scale of the differences betweenWest and East in the Ottoman period is widely considered to be the reason for the present lack of development of the peninsula; the front line between two civilizations is seen as having acted as a barrier, retarding the diffusion of the innovations of the modern world initiated by Western Europe. In addition, in the absence of large deposits of iron and coal, Western capital has solely funded port and railway infrastructures. The determination to obliterate the Ottoman cities by modern geometrical urban layouts expresses a will to 'europeanize' (Table 1).

The communist system aimed to implement modernization on a different basis. It made a break with the long dominant, very poor rural societies. It succeeded in initiating a remarkable economic rise on an industrial base, and introduced urbanism targeted on the mediumsized towns and cities. The present postcommunist crisis has somewhat obscured the progress achieved in living standards in Balkan populations up to the 1980s. However, as the system was based not so much on exchanges and complementarities as on making good use of scattered resources in situ, it contributed to perpetuating spatial partitioning and constituted an obstacle to competitiveness – all the economies were experiencing severe difficulties by 1989.

Social and economic indicators of the Balkan states: Inequalities of development

Socioeconomic Disasters and Spatial Trends

The identity crisis and the systemic postcommunist transition crisis are mutually supportive. The economies have collapsed; infrastructures have deteriorated as a result of the virtual disappearance of the means of the state; liberal privatizations have led to decomposition, thus facilitating the rise of informal economies and corruptions, reducing the influx of the foreign investments that are required for modernization; debt and extreme dependency on outside aid have become structural features. Severe poverty has taken a strong hold, therefore affecting a quarter of the population; it has led to massive (often illegal) emigration, temporary or otherwise. The backdrop is a longstanding, worsening demographic decline, the accentuation of density contrasts, and whole zones devastated by war. The rural areas, sometimes abandoned, face ageing populations and declining agriculture. The large cities attract rural populations and those displaced by conflict; their social composition change and is again segregated.

There is a degree of economic development under international control concerning the construction of housing, the reopening of mining industries and services; it urgently requires road communications to reinforce regional links. Because there is a lack of local energy resources, the challenge will be crucial, requiring common policies on international energy infrastructures. Any economic future also depends on good use of the major tourist potential.

Political Decomposition and Fragile Territorial Recomposition

Three regional subunits can be distinguished, according to their different trajectories, how far they have opened up to the outside, and how far they enter into integration process with EU.

In the northwest, Slovenia and Croatia are close to Western Europe, favoring development, and also entertaining relations with Central Europe. Slovenia, which has Alpine affinities and is culturally homogeneous (with 88% Slovenes), has bolstered its economy, which was 8 times stronger than that of Kosovo in 1989. Croatia possesses part of the Pannonian agricultural plain, the north of the Dinaric Alps and the Dalmatian coast (tourism). When it left Yugoslavia, Croatia became more homogeneous (from 78% to 90% Croatian between 1991 and 2001), but with an economy that has suffered from the aftermath of war and from its standby status for entry into the EU.

In the east and the south, the main feature is the giant Istanbul which has returned to its position as an economic metropolis for the peninsula. Bulgaria and Greece are both neighbors of Turkey, thus having an immediate horizon opening onto the Oriental and Russian zones, and onto the geopolitical and economic organization of the Black Sea (pipelines). Bulgaria, lacking sufficient impetus of its own, has lapsed from relative prosperity into a major crisis. Its spatial organization is on the center–periphery model, inherited from the construction of the modern state. Opposition is growing between the declining outerfringe areas and the central zone (Sofia region, Thrace depression, and the tourist coast), where most of the population, activity, and foreign investments are to be found. Greece, which has been a member of the EU since 1981, is regaining its Balkan dimension after having put its stakes on the Mediterranean, with international tourism and the merchant navy (ranked number one in the world) as its two economic mainstays. It is in the process of developing its role as a geopolitical power relay, growing closer to Turkey. After being a country characterized by emigration, it has now become a destination for post socialist immigration from the peninsula, often illegally. After a very marked period of center–periphery organization, the patterns of distribution of activities have improved, mainly on the north–south Thessalonica–Athens axis. Athens attained the status of a major metropolis with the Olympic Games in 2004.

Albania, Macedonia, and the fragmented Serbia make up the Western Balkans, under the cloud of tragic tension between Moslem groups and the Orthodox Serbian pole, compounded by poverty. The issue is how to construct a political order of Sovereign states. Should the way forward be the ethnic solution, or some form of multiethnic cohabitation?

The breaking up of the Yugoslav political entity is an enduring process, for lack of a strategy for recomposition, and on account of the very marked ethnic interweaving. Macedonia, independent since 1992 and the key to circulation within the peninsula, has been paralyzed by tension between Macedonians (64%) and Albanians (25%) following the uprising in 2001. Montenegro, which shares language and religion with Serbia, achieves independence in 2006 to negotiate its own entry into the EU, which it will thus deprive Serbia of its access to the Adriatic. The population is reputed to be homogeneous, yet only 43% state that they are Montenegrin. Tourism is its only asset. Bosnia Herzegovina, after 3 years of war and 11 years of international supervision, still lacks an effective political solution. With three nations – Bosnian Slav of Moslem culture, Croatian, and Serbian – and two political entities – the Croatian Moslem federation and the Serbian Republic that desires integration with Serbia – this federation does not function according to a multicultural logic, even if there are signs of a new beginning. Serbia has been enclosed within the Danube horizon, with the highly multiethnic Vojvodina province and the region dominated by the agglomeration of Belgrade.

Kosovo, densely populated, is soon to become exclusively Albanian. Till 2008, part of Serbia, but in fact completely autonomous, is awaiting recognition by some states; its example holds the key to the political future of the whole area. Albania is the youngest and poorest country in Europe. Corruption, organized crime, and funds from the 700 000 emigrants (a quarter of the population) are the basis of the economy, and the EU does not expect to integrate it before 2020. The center–periphery phenomenon is acute in the central plain around Tirana.

The processes of homogenization (for Croatia, Serbia, and Kosovo) and of diversification (for Macedonia, Montenegro, and Greece) are continuing: the political miniaturization that results from identity grouping is not simple to represent. The extreme contrasts in demographic dynamics is one of the keys to explaining the hiatus between representations of rights linked to identity established in the past, and the reality of population numbers in each country. On the one hand there are populations of Moslem culture that are prolific and very young, and on the other are ageing Slav populations suffering from major demographic decline. Whatever the debate on the causes of the contrast – economic and/or cultural – the result is a reversal of the relative weight of the two groups, which completely alters the terms of recomposition and requires finding new ways of living together. After the exacerbation of conflicts rooted in identity, poverty, and inequalities are bringing development issues to the fore.

What can be the future for so many tiny countries where the hostility of the neighbors and the small volumes of proximity exchange predominate? In a world where globalization is the order of the day, the handicap of small size will probably not be as great as it was in the previous century, provided that these countries can move beyond the autarchy model, toward a logic of interdependency on a democratic foundation.