Ethnicity and nationalism has had a detrimental effect on the developments in the Balkans since the early 1990s. A challenge to the development of democracy in the Western Balkans is the tendency towards mono- ethnicity when it comes to civil society and especially political parties. Macedonia was the second republic to secede from former Yugoslavia – and the only one to do so without causing armed conflict. A peaceful beginning came to an end in 2001 with the conflict between Macedonians and the largest minority Albanians. After years of showing dedication to implementing the Ohrid Peace Agreement (2001) and carrying through reforms, Macedonia has the role off a successful example of multiethnic model. However, tension between the Macedonian majority population and ethnic minorities remain central in society and politics.
How have the inter-ethnic relations evolved in the Western Balkans? What are the possibilities and challenges in a society characterized by multicultural communities? How can the inter-ethnic relations and political dialogue can be promoted?
Marko Lehti is Senior research fellow at Tampere Peace Research Institute at University of Tampere and Academic Director of Baltic Sea Region Studies Master’s Programme at University of Turku. He leads a Academy of Finland Reseach project Lännen reunalla: Balkan ja muuttuva Eurooppa. His main research interests are in identity politics, nationalism, the Balkan, the Baltic and geopolitics. His publications include: The Struggle for the West: A Divided and Contested Legacy, ed. Jointly with C. Browning (2009 Routledge), Contested and Shared Places of Memory: History and Politics in North Eastern Europe, ed. jointly with J. Hackmann (2009 Routledge).
Marija Stambolieva is Executive director of the think tank, the PROGRES Institute for Social Democracy in Macedonia. She is Master of European Studies from the University of Hamburg. She has been active in the civic sector as a volunteer in various civic organizations. In 2002 she was elected President of the Student Union of the University “St.Cyril and Methodius”-Skopje and in 2005 she became member of the Executive Committee of the European Students’ Union. From 2006 to 2009 Stambolieva was member of the Advisory Council on Youth in the Council of Europe. She has experience as youth activist and trainer, obtained through the work at numerous national and international projects.
Toshe Zafirov is project assistant in PROGRES Institute for Social Democracy in the project “The Integration and Participation of Minorities in Civil Society – Dialogue and Training”. Zafirov has graduated in political science (department of public opinion, mass media and communications) and is currently attending master of EU institutions and policy.