Developing security community in the Western Balkans: The role of the EU and NATO


This article examines how external third parties, particularly international organizations, can facilitate the development of security community and international integration within post-conflict societies. Focusing on seven countries in the Western Balkan region, this study offers unique insight into how and why feelings of trust and a sense of community can be encouraged by external actors – the EU and NATO in this case – and how and if trust and community can filter down to the most local levels within post-conflict societies. Ultimately, we argue that both the EU and NATO have, primarily through membership requirements to engage in regional interaction and cooperation, significantly contributed to the development of security community among Western Balkan neighbors at the elite level. However, we also find that feelings of trust and belongingness are still very much lacking among the general population of the Western Balkan region. Such insights will further efforts to enhance conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction in the Western Balkans and elsewhere.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    Though still internationally contentious, the United States recognized Kosovo as an independent state in February 2008.

  2. 2.

    We use ‘Western Balkans’ to refer to these seven countries in accordance with the EU's use of the term. See the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament entitled ‘The Western Balkans and European Integration’,, or on the enlargement policy section at

  3. 3.

    The concept of security community, which is discuss in greater detail in the body of the article, refers to the development of trust, shared values and peaceful resolution of conflict among states that interact regularly, come to identify with one another and consider violent interaction to be unthinkable (see Adler and Barnett, 1998a, 1998b).

  4. 4.

    Throughout our study we treat the EU and NATO as the distinct organizations that they are, but we also recognize that they share many programs, policies and purposes in the Western Balkans region. See their statement regarding cooperation and complementary actions at

  5. 5.

    See Almond (1994); Halpern and Kideckel (2000); Job (2002); Ramet (2002); Gallagher (2003); Kola (2003); Naimark and Case (2003); Thomas (2003); Gagnon, Jr (2004); Mesic (2004); Phillips (2004); Rogel (2004); Oliver (2005).

  6. 6.

    On the importance of communication and transaction flows, see Cioffi-Revilla et al (1987). On the negative consequences of communication and transactions (for example, nationalism), see Holsti (1980).

  7. 7.

    For more on learning and foreign policy decisions, see Gross-Stein (1994, pp. 155–83); Levy (1994, pp. 279–312). For more on socialization, see Dawson (1977); Ikenberry and Kupchan (1990, pp. 283–315).

  8. 8.

    Other studies focus specifically on international organizations as agents of socialization and teachers of norms (see Finnemore (1993, 1996); Hasenclever et al (1997); Price and Zacher (2004).

  9. 9.

    See the extensive literature by Peter Haas on epistemic communities.

  10. 10.

    While part of the Yugoslav Republic, Slovenia escaped many of the hardships of the Balkan conflicts, and is not considered part of the Western Balkans by international organizations. Albania, on the other hand, was not part of the Yugoslav Republic, but is a Western Balkan state.

  11. 11.

    See the International Crisis Group's reports on the Macedonian crisis at

  12. 12.

    Although some observers would argue that this is much more to do with the EU's existing political alliances and diplomacies with Greece than it is to do with a lack of concern over a potential Cypriot security community (see Brewin (2000) or Diez (2002)).

  13. 13.

    Detailed survey results from Macedonia and Serbia are available from the authors.

  14. 14.

    Discussions of this potential complication include Massari (2005); Knaus and Cox (2005).

  15. 15.

    At the time of writing, Kosovo's own relationships with the EU and NATO did not yet exist owing to its recent independence and problematic international status. However, The Economist of 14 February 2009 writes, ‘The greatest success of Kosovo has been to avert a Serb exodus. Kosovo's Serbs … are under pressure from Belgrade not to participate in any of Kosovo's institutions. Yet Serbia now has a firmly pro-European government; in the wake of Kosovo's independence, the extreme nationalist threat has evaporated, not exploded’ (Kosovo, 2009).

  16. 16.

    One example is the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which has undertaken the beginnings of cultural tourism in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and which seeks to link tourist efforts to general improvements in business privatization and structural economic reforms in the country. According to Alvin Rosembaum (2006), BiH does not currently have any kind of state-level public sector tourism ministry or promotional agency (

  17. 17.

    The Croatian National Tourist Board website choice of languages and available packages illustrates this to some degree:

  18. 18.

    For details see the European Union's Justice and Home Affairs website,


  1. Adler, E. (1992) Europe's new security order: A pluralistic security community. In: B. Crawford (ed.) The Future of European Security. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Adler, E. (1993) Cognitive evolution: A dynamic approach for the study of international relations and their progress. In: E. Adler and B. Crawford (eds.) Progress in Postwar International Relations. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Adler, E. (1998) Seeds of peaceful change: The OSCE's security community-building model. In: E. Adler and M. Barnett (eds.) Security Communities (Cambridge Studies in International Relations). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 119–160.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Adler, E. and Barnett, M. (1996) Governing anarchy: A research agenda for the study of security communities. Ethics and International Affairs 10 (1): 63–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Adler, E. and Barnett, M. (1998a) A framework for the study of security communities. In: E. Adler and M. Barnett (eds.) Security Communities (Cambridge Studies in International Relations). Cambridge: Cambrige University Press, pp. 29–66.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Adler, E. and Barnett, M. (1998b) Security communities in theoretical perspective. In: E. Adler and M. Barnett (eds.) Security Communities (Cambridge Studies in International Relations). Cambridge: Cambrige University Press, pp. 3–28.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Adriatic Charter. (2005), accessed April 2006.

  8. Agence France Presse. (2003) Macedonia mission shows Europe doing its bit for security. 16 April,

  9. Almond, M. (1994) Europe's Backyard War: The War in the Balkans. London: Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Anastasakis, O. and Bojicic-Dzelilovic, V. (2002) Balkan regional cooperation and European integration. The Hellenic Observatory: The European Institute, LSE,, accessed 30 March 2006.

  11. BBC Monitoring Europe – Political. (2003) Macedonian assembly ratifies accord on status of EU police mission. 12 December,, accessed 13 April 2006.

  12. BBC Monitoring Europe – Political. (2006a) Montenegrin press review. BBC News, 7 April,, accessed 20 October 2006.

  13. BBC Monitoring Europe – Political. (2006b) Montenegro declares independence. BBC News, 31 May,, accessed 20 October 2006.

  14. BBC Monitoring Europe – Political. (2009) Montenegrin defence minister, Croatian CGS, discuss cooperation, NATO entry. BBC News, 30 June 2009.

  15. Bilefsky, B. (2008) Violence erupts Macedonian election. The New York Times, 2 June,, accessed 30 June 2008.

  16. Bilefsky, B. and Simmons, M. (2008) Bosnian Serb under arrest in war crimes. The New York Times, 22 July,, accessed 30 July 2008.

  17. Bjola, C. (2001) NATO as a factor of security community building: Enlarging and democratization in central and eastern Europe. EAPC-NATO Individual Fellowship Final Report 1999–2000, Central European University,, accessed April 2006.

  18. Borinski, P. (2002) NATO towards the double enlargement: The case of the Balkans. Revue d’integration europeene 24: 113–136.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Bowker, M. (1998) The wars in Yugoslavia: Russia and the international community. Europe-Asia Studies 50 (7): 1245–1261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Brewin, C. (2000) The European Union and Cyprus. Cambridgeshire, UK: The Eothen Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Bull, H. (1977) The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Bull, H. (1990) The importance of Grotius in the study of international relations. In: H. Bull, B. Kingsbury and A. Roberts (eds.) Hugo Grotius and International Relations. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Central European Free Trade Agreement website. (2006), accessed 3 July 2009.

  24. Cioffi-Revilla, C, Merritt, R.L and Zinnes, D.A. (eds.) (1987) Communication and Interaction in Global Politics. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Dawson, R., Prewitt, K. and Kawson, K.S. (1977) Political Socialization: An Analytical Study,, 2nd edn. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Deutsch, K.W. et al. (1957) Political Community and the North Atlantic Area. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Deutsch, K. (1964) Communication theory and political integration. In: P.E. Jacob and J.V. Toscano (eds.) The Integration of Political Communities. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott Company, pp. 46–74.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Diez, T. (ed.) (2002) The European Union and the Cyprus Conflict. New York: Manchester University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  29. East-West Parliamentary Practice Project (EWPPP). (2007) Legislatures and citizens: Strengthening democratic institutions and civil society in the Western Balkans,, accessed February 2007.

  30. Economic Reconstruction and Development in South East Europe. (2006) European Union website,, accessed 27 March 2006.

  31. (2007) EU-Western Balkans relations. Enlargment and Neighbors Policy Section, accessed April 2007.

  32. Europa. (2006) European Union website,, accessed 27 March 2006.

  33. European Commission. (2005a) Key findings of the 2005 progress reports on Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Kosovo. Europea Press Releases, Memo/05/410,, accessed 9 November 2006.

  34. European Commission. (2005b) The regional cooperation in the Western Balkans: A policy priority for the European Union,, accessed April 2006.

  35. European Commission. (2006a) Montenegro 2006 progress report. European Commission Report, 8 November,, accessed 15 April 2007.

  36. European Commission. (2006b) Serbia 2006 progress report. European Commission Report, August, SEC 1389,, accessed February 2007.

  37. European Commission. (2007) Bosnia and Herzegovina 2007 Progress Report. European Commission Report, 11 June, SEC 1430., accessed January 2008.

  38. Fierke, K.M. and Wiener, A. (1999) Constructing institutional interests: EU and NATO enlargement. Journal of European Public Policy 6 (5): 721–742.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Finnemore, M. (1993) International organizations as teachers of norms: The United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization and science policy. International Organization 47 (4): 565–597.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Finnemore, M. (1996) Defining National Interests in International Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Finnemore, M. and Sikkink, K. (1998) International norm dynamics and political change. International Organization 52 (4): 887–917.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Franck, T. (1990) The Power of Legitimacy among Nations. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Gagnon Jr, V.P. (2004) The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Gallagher, T. (2003) The Balkans after the Cold War: From Tyranny to Tragedy. New York: Routlege.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Gallagher, T. (2005) The Balkans in the New Millenium: In the Shadow of War and Peace. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Gross-Stein, J. (1994) Political learning by doing: Gorbachev as uncommitted thinker and motivated learner. International Organization 48 (Spring): 155–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Guardian. (2008) Kosovo independence: Spain exposes EU split as US leads recognition. 19 February.

  48. Hasenclever, A., Mayer, P. and Rittberger, V. (1997) Theories of International Regimes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Halpern, J.M. and Kideckel, D.A. (eds.) (2000) Neighbors at War: Anthropological Perspectives on Yugoslav Ethnicity, Culture and History. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Holsti, K.J. (1980) Change in the international system: Interdependence, integration, and fragmentation. In: O.R. Holsti, R.M. Siverson and A.L. George (eds.) Change in the International System. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Ikenberry, J. and Kupchan, C. (1990) Socialization and hegemonic power. International Organization 44 (Summer): 283–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. International Herald Tribune. (2007) Top EU mediator warns against dividing Kosovo. 7 September.

  53. International Herald Tribune. (2008) Deadlock over Kosovo risks Balkan instability. 12 June.

  54. Job, C. (2002) Yugoslavia's Ruin: The Bloody Lessons of Nationalism, A Patriot's Warning. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Jacoby, W. (2004) The Enlargement of the European Union and NATO: Ordering from the Menu in Central Europe. New York: Cambridge Univeristy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Johnston, A.I. (2001) Treating international institutions as social environments. International Studies Quarterly 45: 487–515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Kavalski, E.R. (2003) The international socialization of the Balkans. The Review of International Affairs 2: 71–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Kavalski, E.R. (2004) The EU in the Balkans: Promoting an elite security community. World Affairs 8: 98–116.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Keck, M.E. and Sikkink, K. (1998) Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Knaus, G. and Cox, M. (2005) The ‘Helsinki’ moment in southeastern Europe. Journal of Democracy 16: 39–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Kola, P. (2003) The Myth of Greater Albania. New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Kosovo Independence: One year on. (2009) The Economist. 14 February. Accessed via Lexis-Nexis February 2009.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Levy, J. (1994) Learning and foreign policy: Sweeping a conceptual minefield. International Organization 48 (Spring): 279–312.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Massari, M. (2005) Do all roads lead to Brussels? Analysis of the different trajectories of Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 18: 259–273.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Mesic, S. (2004) The Demise of Yugoslavia. Budapest, Hungary: CEU Press.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Naimark, N.M. and Case, H. (eds.) (2003) Yugoslavia and Its Historians: Understanding the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Nathan, L. (2006) Domestic instability and security communities. European Journal of International Relations 12 (2): 275–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. NATO Integrated Data Service. (2003). Remarks by the Secretary General at the EU-Western Balkans Summit,, accessed April 2006.

  69. NATO. (2006) The Partnership for Peace,, accessed 27 March 2006.

  70. NATO. (2007) NATO allied joint force command Naples,, accessed 16 April 2007.

  71. NATO. (2009) NATO issues: Enlargement,, accessed January 2009.

  72. NATO Briefing. (2005) Bringing peace and stability to the Balkans,, accessed June 2007, p. 3.

  73. Nimetz, M. (2005) Southeastern Europe in the age of globalism. Mediterranean Quarterly 16: 16–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Oliver, I. (2005) War and Peace in the Balkans: The Diplomacy of Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia. London: IB Tauris.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Onuf, N.G. (1989) World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Onuf, N.G. (1998) Constructivism: A user's manual. In: V. Kubalkova, N. Onuf and P. Kower (eds.) International Relations in a Constructed World. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 58–78.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Phillips, J. (2004) Macedonia: Warlords and Rebels in the Balkans. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Price, R.M. and Zacher, M.W. (2004) The United Nations and Global Security. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Ramet, S.P. (2002) Balkan Babel: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia from the Death of Tito to the Fall of Milosevic, 4th edn. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Rogel, C. (2004) The Breakup of Yugoslavia and Its Aftermath. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Rosembaum, A. (2006) Cultural tourism in Bosnia & Herzegovina: Preliminary findings. USAID: February.

  82. Saroska, M. (2001) All the civilian casualties of the war. Reality Macedonia, 11 December,, accessed 13 April 2006.

  83. Schimmelfennig, F. (2003) Strategic action in a community environment: The decision to enlarge the European Union to the east. Comparative Political Studies 36 (1–2): 156–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Serbian Government Press Release. (2006) Serbia prepares measures defining its status as Serbia-Montengro's successor. Serbian Government Press Release, 1 June,, accessed 15 December 2006.

  85. South-East Europe Barometer. (2006) Public opinion compared in seven countries. Paul Lazarfed Society and Austrian Society for European Politics, Studies in Public Policy Number 407.

  86. Thomas, R.G.C. (eds.) (2003) Yugoslavia Unraveled: Sovereignty, Self-Determination, Intervention. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

    Google Scholar 

  87. United States Joint Forces Command. (2006), accessed 27 March 2006.

  88. Vachudova, M.A. (2004) Strategies for European integration and democratization in the Balkans. Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs 4: 92–105.

    Google Scholar 

  89. Wendt, A. (1992) Anarchy is what states make of it. International Organization 46 (Spring): 395–421.

    Google Scholar 

  90. Wendt, A. (1994) Collective identity formation and the international state. American Political Science Review 88 (2): 384–396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank Robert H. Cox for his helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper; our research partners in the Western Balkans for their assistance with data collection; and the International Research and Exchanges Board and the University of Oklahoma for their financial support of this project.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Suzette R Grillot.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Grillot, S., Cruise, R. & D'Erman, V. Developing security community in the Western Balkans: The role of the EU and NATO. Int Polit 47, 62–90 (2010).

Download citation


  • security community
  • Euro-Atlantic integration
  • Western Balkans
  • European Union (EU)
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  • post-conflict resolution