In the past 20 years, following the break-up of Yugoslavia and the expansion of the European Union, Southeast Europe has undergone tremendous changes. The selective offer of EU membership to Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovenia, and the impending accession of Croatia, has had a complex and shifting effect on the region, affecting intra-regional dependence and integration, inter-state relations, and economic and socio-political development. The benefits of EU enlargement and membership have been richly covered in the academic literature; less so the hidden costs, tensions and disruptions within and among member countries of the Balkan region.
Balkan Futures examines inter-regional development and cooperation in Southeast Europe in a period of crisis rather than consolidation in the EU. Through assessment of the processes and trajectories of regional interaction and development over the past 10-20 years, the project aims to define potential areas for future policy-making and research. A particular focus is Balkan perceptions of the region, examining how these have changed since the collapse of Communism. The increasing relevance of the EU vis-à-vis the development of internal state structures and institutions will be assessed, as will inter-state relations and the management of trans-boundary issues. In the current atmosphere of political and economic crisis within the EU, it is of interest to look at constructions of identity and self-image given the apparent rise of nationalism and the political right in many states in the region. The project also encompasses a more specific focus on Greece and Turkey, examining their roles and aspirations in a region of which they form a key part, and their bilateral relations which historically have played a major part in shaping Balkan identities.
Balkan Futures brings together three institutions - the British Institute at Ankara, the British School at Athens, and the École française d’Athènes - thus providing a comparative scholarly perspective. The principal investigators are Dr Marc Herzog (BIAA), Dr Ozge Dilaver Kalkan (BSA/BIAA), Professor Catherine Morgan (BSA), and Professor Maria Couroucli and Dr Tchavdar Marinov (EfA). The project builds on recent work in all three institutions. The BSA and EfA jointly staged a workshop on The Balkans: From Academic Field to International Politics in April 2012. The BIAA supports another British Academy funded research project On the Cusp, examining the notion of cusp states in international relations and in special reference to Turkey. Its first workshop was held in March 2012. The programmes of both events can be found on the Balkan Futures page on www.bsa.ac.uk and www.biaa.ac.uk.
To build on these foundations, the institutes have secured British Academy funding for the three-year postdoctoral joint fellowship currently advertised, and for three workshops which will be the project milestones (and will be published). The interdisciplinary perspective of the April 2012 Balkan conference, which brings together historians, sociologists, ethnographers, anthropologists and experts in international relations and public policy, will be maintained throughout the workshop series. The expertise of the Fellow will lie in one of these fields, broadly construed. The first workshop, to be held in Ankara in March 2013 and organized by the BIAA, will focus on Turkey’s role in the Balkan region. The second, held in Athens in autumn 2013 at the EfA, will consider Balkan perspectives. The third, held in Athens in spring 2014 at the BSA, will consider Greek futures. Responsibility for each workshop will be taken by the principal investigators and the Fellow, partnered in each case by a senior expert in the field. In addition, it may be possible for one or more additional seminars to be held at the London School of Economics as part of its research programme on Southeast Europe (LSEE: Research on South East Europe). These would be organized and funded by LSEE in the context of a parallel agenda. Balkan Futures is actively seeking new participants and affiliates to develop the research network and expand its range of activities. Activities and events are listed on the project webpage.