Area Studies and International Relations
Analyzing flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans
May 10, 2021
The Western Balkans is a crossroads for the trafficking of many illicit commodities, and it is a geographical hub for the smuggling of migrants who are trying to enter Western Europe.
While these facts are well known, information on the size of the markets and the potential profits is less evident. And while the Western Balkans has a bad reputation for laundering illicit proceeds, there is not much information on cities and sectors where it is a problem.
This report sheds light on the dark numbers of mixed migrant flows through the Western Balkans, the prices that they pay to be smuggled, as well as the cost of drugs in the region. To do this, it uses an approach pioneered in two previous Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) reports on organized crime in the Western Balkans, namely pinpointing and looking at what is going on in selected hotspots especially high-volume entry and exit routes through which migrants are smuggled, and key drug trafficking nodes. Focusing on illicit activity in these hotspots provides a close-up look at the drivers and enablers of organized crime. At the same time, an analysis of these hotspots in a regional context gives an indication of the volume of illicit trade and the potential profits being made.
After looking at the amounts of money being made in these hotspots and showing where and how the smuggling of migrants and drugs is taking place, the report looks at a third flow – money. The third section of the report explains how money laundering works in the region both in terms of cleaning small amounts in the informal economy as well as bigger volumes generated by serious organized crime and large-scale corruption. It identifies sectors and industries as well as particular hotpots in the Western Balkans that are particularly vulnerable to money laundering.
This report contains a wealth of information which was gathered (despite the COVID-19 pandemic) through field research and interviews carried out with current and former law enforcement officials, investigative journalists, researchers, local officials, as well as migrants, drug users, and representatives of civil society in the hotspots. It also draws on secondary sources and official government information. To make this information more user-friendly, a number of maps and graphics have been specially made for this report.
We hope that this report can lead to a greater understanding of illicit economies in the Western Balkans in order to take more effective measures to reduce the incentives and profits of organized crime.
Caucasus & Central Asia Post / COVID-19
The ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan are at a critical stage, which, if successful, could help turn a page on the forty-year conflict in the country, unlocking Afghanistan’s potential to the region by linking it with the rest of the world.
The ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan are at a critical stage, which, if successful, could help turn a page on the forty-year conflict in the country, unlocking Afghanistan’s potential to the region by linking it with the rest of the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has added a new variable to the process. Yet unlike the negative impact other health emergencies have had on conflicts worldwide, the impact of Covid-19 on Afghanistan’s peace efforts constitutes a net gain for the process. In this paper, we first assess the likelihood of peace in Afghanistan and argue its relevance and significance for the region, particularly for Central Asia, Mongolia, Caucasus and Afghanistan (CAMCA). We then look into the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the process. Finally, we make a case for CAMCA and other regional stakeholders to seize the opportunity the pandemic has surprisingly introduced to support the process constructively.
The European crisis and Turkey’s unpredictable role in the Balkans
May 31, 2019
Insight Turkey, Spring 2019, Volume 21, Number 2.
Abstract This paper discusses Turkey’s role in the Balkans as part of the broader narrative of European integration. It is argued that “Europeanization” in the early 2000s was a political platform that was instrumental in allowing Turkey to forge a peace between the country’s established elite and moderate political Islam, with wider social and economic implications. During this period, Turkey combined its traditional role as a demographic hub of Balkan Muslim populations with greenfield investment and political facilitation that ultimately contributed to regional stability and economic growth. However, in the context of Turkey’s alienation from the project of European integration, the relationship between Europe and Turkey is becoming narrowly transactional and there is no longer a “community building” dynamic. Instead, the region emerges as a canvas of competing influences and mutually exclusive choices between Ankara and Brussels that ultimately contribute to “Balkanization.”
Eurasian Silk Paths and the BRI brand
May 17, 2019
Delivered at "Europe's economic development - directions, barriers, consequences" conference, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Warsaw University of Life Sciences.
Τhe Belt and Road initiative (BRI) is a policy brand rather than a foreign policy master plan with predetermined milestones. This Chinese brand bestows transport connectivity with confidence that projects will be financed, but also comes with assumptions about the ownership and their operation. In framing BRI as the objective of promoting China’s connectivity with Europe – in energy, transport, and telecommunications – it is clear that China is pursuing both geopolitical and geo-economic objectives that necessarily challenge the status quo in Europe as much as Asia. China would argue that the status quo is unviable and the question at hand is managing the inevitable transition from a global Atlantic to a global Pacific-centered economy. BRI is presented as a win-win recipe to catalyze this transition, promoting shared growth. Not everyone is convinced China alone should be able to play this role.
The EU versus Russia’s Standoff: Georgia’s Virtual Choice
Kakabadse Andrew & Schepers, Stefan (eds), Rethinking the Future of Europe: a Challenge of Governance, London: Palgrave McMillan, p.p. 270-279
There is nothing virtual about the standoff between Brussels and Moscow, culminating in the Eastern Partnership Vilnius Summit in November 2013. Two alternative and mutually exclusive projects for trade integration unfolded before ‘states like Georgia’, seemingly as a choice, from Kiev to Baku. The economic and diplomatic dimensions of this encounter were crystal clear, though polemically presented in the press. Less clear was the ideological
encounter and the mutually constitutive nature of political discourse.
Tbilisi's Relevance to Washington: What Is, Where Is, and What can be
October 8, 2013
American Foreign Policy Interests: The Journal of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Taylor & Francis: 35:5, 272-282
This article reflects on the disparity of perceptions in the West over Georgia’s political trajectory since its first-ever peaceful transfer of power in October 2013. Going beyond current affairs, the authors examine the significance of Georgia, primarily to Washington, in the context of greater developments in the diplomatic landscape. They argue that while the post-Soviet space has become increasingly multipolar and less convincingly multilateral, there is a need to go beyond a ‘‘reset’’ between former foes and a ‘‘reload’’ of the structure of regional alliances.
3-For-1 for the Black Sea: 3x Development, 3x Soft Power
September 30, 2013
Center for International and European Studies Center, Istanbul: Kadir Has University, European Neighborhood Policy, Policy Series, No 13
Against the backdrop of a global economic crisis, the Black Sea is likely to suffer from the decline of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and/or remittances. Because most of the states in the region are very dependent on these capital flows, this is likely to have tremendous socioeconomic effects. This paper proposes a response founded on the idea that less capital could be more productive if deployed in the right manner. The policy framework proposed is inspired by the Mexican “3-for-1” model of collective remittances, proposing the reframing of development aid policy to work in synergy with migrant remittances. Such an approach would treat ODA as “seed capital,” thereby increasing the donor’s “soft power” and the growth of the receiving state. Focusing on the Black Sea region, this paper takes note of the conflicting interests, relative strengths and weaknesses of policy actors competing for soft power leverage in the region: the European Union (EU), Russia, Turkey, the United States (US), and corporate actors. It makes the case that such policy framing would, for those who would endorse it, provide a competitive edge.
Three ends, two transitions, one crisis: the quest for the lost transition in the Balkans
South East European Journal of Political Science, Vol. I, No. 2, 2013
In the comparative politics literature, “transitology” is the study of a particular kind of a regime change, namely the passage from “non-democracy” to a liberal regime. This article widens the scope of the investigation, addressing the question of how grand teleological narratives of socioeconomic transformation, including but not limited to the democratisation project, are domesticated in normative terms. It does so by retrieving Balkan constitutional texts and analysing them as “narratives of transition”. The texts selected are from characteristically “revolutionary” periods: 1945, the 1960s, and 1989, corresponding to major shifts in modernist socioeconomic narratives. It is argued that in both socialist and liberal discursive
traditions, “transition” is a fully perspective and open-ended “historical stage” characterised by a series of reforms, not least constitutional, intended to conclusively transform society. However, a comparable transitory narrative from or to the ‘European Social Model” has never existed;yet, it is precisely this narrative that emerges as the current economic crisis unfolds. As such, the term of “Balkans” might acquire new significances, as a region of convergence of several EUperipheries (South-Eastern Europe, the South, Western Balkans).
The Challenge of Keeping the Negotiation Process on Track
in Mensur Akgun (ed). Managing Intractable Conflicts: Lessons from Moldova and Cyprus, GPOT, Istanbul Kultur University, Istanbul
Peace negotiations never take place in a vacuum. This is a global theme. During our
interview with the former Turkish Cypriot leader, Talat, in June 2012, he described
the process of negotiations as multi-variable, where content and context agendas, at
times, collide. Elections take place; the EU economy is experiencing a severe crisis;
oil is discovered; EU progress reports are issued; polling is regularly conducted.
In sum, the negotiation process cannot be handled with a neat “problem-solving”
approach, since the actors have to come to terms with the fact that not everything
is in their hands. The same can be said of the negotiation process involving the two
banks of the river Dniester, where another variable must be considered, namely the
propensity of political discourse in the Wider Caucasus and the Black Sea region to
be imbued with more explicitly geopolitical significance (Kuchins et al., 2012). This
is not because of some proverbial “cultural deficiency,” but because of the mere fact
that the whole region has for decades been treated as a crossroads between empires,
trade roots and spheres of influence. The common denominator in both cases is
not merely a series of obstacles encountered in the negotiation process per se, but
also the quest to create a “contextual window of opportunity.” This chapter focuses
precisely on the significant differences and similarities between the two case studies
on the content versus context friction of the negotiation process.
Independence Democracy and the Russian Taboo
Baku: Caucasus International, Vol. 2, No: 1
From the outset, it should be noted that this paper is not “a commemorative
narrative,” celebrating Georgia’s 22 years of independence in the strict sense of the term. It is a paper inspired from analysts like Thomas de Waal and Neil MacFarlane, who have time and again been driving home the same message: for Georgia to advance along its path to democratization, we must come to face up to our “ghost”, which is none other than our relation to Moscow.
Gas Security in the Transitional European Market
Moscow in World Affairs
In the comparative politics literature, “transitology” is the study of a particular kind of a regime change, namely the passage from “non-democracy” to a liberal regime. This article widens the scope of the investigation, addressing the question of how grand teleological narratives of socioeconomic transformation,
including but not limited to the democratisation project, are domesticated in normative terms. It does so by retrieving Balkan constitutional texts and analysing them as “narratives of transition”. The texts selected are from characteristically “revolutionary” periods: 1945, the 1960s, and 1989, corresponding to major shifts in modernist socioeconomic narratives. It is argued that in both socialist and liberal discursive traditions, “transition” is a fully perspective and open-ended “historical stage” characterised by a series of
reforms, not least constitutional, intended to conclusively transform society. However, a comparable transitory narrative from or to the ‘European Social Model” has never existed;yet, it is precisely this narrative that emerges as the current economic crisis unfolds. As such, the term of “Balkans” might acquire
new significances, as a region of convergence of several EUperipheries (South-Eastern Europe, the South, Western Balkans).
Building a Sustainable Future for the Black Sea area: New Perspectives & Challenges for B.S.E.C.
ICBSS POLICY BRIEF no. 24
In accordance with the recent developments, the financial and economic crisis proved to have profound and long-lasting implications for the Black Sea area. Under these circumstances the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), a multilateral political and economic initiative which aims at the promotion of stability, prosperity and good-neighbourly relations in the region, had to acquire an attractive, feasible, prospect and renewed intellectual effort, in order to forward revised priorities for the countries of the Black Sea region in the difficult years to come. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats set the framework for the BSEC to enter a new phase with an overarching strategic approach under the concept of sustainable development. The priority areas which were defined by the BSEC Economic Agenda for the Future of 2001 here are revised and enhanced with twenty years of experience.
Trade, energy, transport, environment, science and innovation, good governance, EU partnership are some of the significant areas for regional cooperation and the main thrust of the BSEC activities.
Energy Security: trends, developments and options for Azerbaijan
CAEI Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales Working paper # 44 CIS-Baltic States Program
The quest for energy security will no doubt be a major arena for the consolidation of a new international status quo in the following years. One of the reasons for this assertion is that the traditional north-south patterns of energy consumption are now being radically transformed (Figure 1); most dramatically, China evolved from being a net exporter of oil in 1993 to being dependent on oil imports for over 50% of its consumption in 2004 (Williams 2007). In fact the case of China epitomizes the erosion of traditional North-South notions of economic regionalism we have held for decades in terms of economic development, military capability, trade patterns, etc. In this fluid geopolitical environment, where multipolarism is the emerging international relations cliché, Azerbaijan must make informed policy choices for the future of its energy industry. This paper attempts to theorize the global context of these choices in view of presenting an
informed discussion of threats and opportunities for Azerbaijan in the immediate future.
Azerbaijan in the New Geo-Economic Environment
AZERBAIJAN IN THE WORLD ADA Biweekly Newsletter Vol. 4, No. 20
The increasing importance of oil and gas in both domestic and international affairs presents Azerbaijan with enormous opportunities—and equally enormous challenges. As a major oil and gas producer in its own right and an important transit country by virtue of its location, Azerbaijan has seen its own economy boom and its importance internationally rise dramatically over the last two decades. Precisely because of its importance as an oil and gas supplier, however, Azerbaijan must navigate among a variety of other power centers—including China and India, which with their rising markets are shifting the balance of the international order; the Russian Federation and the desire of its leadership to use oil and gas as the country’s most important foreign policy tool; Turkey and its interests as a rising power in its own right; as well as the European Union member states and the United States with their increasing energy dependence—in order to maintain its
ability to define its own future.
Food Security, Human Security and the Black Sea: the Instructive Case Study of 2010-2011 Events
Athens: ICBSS Policy Brief No.23
This policy brief focuses on a case study. It is suggested that an environmental disaster during the summer of 2010 in the Black Sea region triggered in winter 2011 a food crisis in the Arab World; in turn, this led to massive riots, revolts, political instability, a NATO operation and, alas, an oil crisis that accentuates an already suffering global economy. Coextensively, it maybe suggested that an environmental crisis triggered a political crisis, which escalated in a series of conflicts that are of major concern for traditional security structures in Europe and beyond. In sum, the argument is made that as a result of this experience, the human security agenda must have a direct effect on our traditional security
agenda. The question addressed at this point is how these interrelated chains of events affect the security establishment and our notions of a ‘high strategy.’
Dark Knights in the Balkans: for how long will the EU remain the only ‘game’ in town?
Athens: Gutenberg Publishing, Hellenic Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2.
This article analyses the transformation of the Balkan foreign policy environment from the middle of the 1990’s until today. The argument put forward is that the EU and NATO have essentially operated as twin pillars of a single Euro-Atlantic regime in the region that has for nearly two decades been uncontested. The policy of the two international organizations had in many ways been revisionist in that utilitarian principles rather than established normative international principles were employed for the revision of the territorial status quo and the recognition of successor states in the former Yugoslavia.
The article introduces the historical conditions that were conducive to the emergence of what is hereby referred to as a unipolar-multilateral paradigm of diplomacy in the Balkans, which emerged in the 1990s. It then goes on to discuss the resurgence of traditional multipolar-bilateral diplomatic options in Balkan diplomacy in the first decade of this century, which is mainly associated with the increasing leverage of Turkey and Russia in the region. Finally, there is a discussion of the conditions that are conducive to a paradigmatic friction between these two culturally distinct approaches to foreign policy.
Nationalism Studies and Political Communication
Folk Culture & Nation-Building in the Less than Developed World: a study on the visual culture of citizenship
Baycroft Timothy and David Hopkin (eds), Folklore and Nationalism in the long nineteenth-century, Netherlands: Koniklijke Brill Publications
This paper traces the evolution and transformation of folk visual culture as expressed on paper currencies of the capitalist periphery from the last quarter of the nineteenth century until the eve of the Second World War.
Making Authority Visible: From Imperial Seals to National Emblems
First Global Conference on Visual Litteracies, Interdisciplinary Network, Mansfield College, Oxford, UK
This paper is an attempt to classify a national as opposed to an imperial or aristocratic visual culture. The focus is on seals of authority, which in the case of a nation-state might be called a national emblem while in the case of
an imperial institution is called an armorial bearing. There is no established scholarly tradition devoted to the study of national emblems. However, the study of armorial bearings is well established within the heraldic tradition, that is, the tracing of aristocratic genealogies; more often then not, the emphasis is on aristocratic families in the lands of the former Roman Christendom. In this paper a heraldic approach is employed for the analysis of Ottoman imperial symbols. The focus of this paper is the gradual evolution of visual political culture in the Balkans, from an Ottoman-imperial to a Turkish-national expressive contour. It is hoped that this paper is contributes to the understanding of nationalism as a school of human expression and, more specifically, the visual literacy required to analyze symbols of national significance.