Global Britain and the Western Balkans Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The uneasy path to peace and prosperity in the Western Balkans

1.The problems facing the Western Balkans are deeply-rooted and intricately interwoven. Its path to European integration will be long and halting and there is no guarantee of success. It is vital that the UK and its EU and NATO partners maintain their commitment to the region, but they must acknowledge the difficulties and risks involved and recognise that it will likely take a long time to make a substantive difference. (Paragraph 11)

2.Russia is willing to do what it can to disrupt the Western Balkans’ path to stability and democracy. This is demonstrated by Russia’s support for an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 and reports of Russian attempts to supply arms to militant groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Similarly, there is a risk that Russia will try to subvert or stop the ratification of the agreement recently reached between Greece and Macedonia to end their long-running name dispute, particularly in any referendum that may be held in Macedonia. (Paragraph 12)

3.It is not for the UK to say whether the people of Greece and Macedonia should ratify the agreement recently reached between the two governments to resolve their name dispute. However, as one of the leading powers resisting Russian aggression, it is vital that the UK does what it can to help ensure that a decision can be made in a free, fair and open way. The FCO should tell us what the UK has done and will do, in concert with its regional, EU and NATO partners and allies, to ensure that the ratification process is not disrupted by malicious outside interference. (Paragraph 13)

The UK’s post-Brexit position in the Western Balkans

4.The UK has long championed the Western Balkans on its path to peace and prosperity. We welcome the FCO’s assurance that this would continue after Brexit. It is, however, difficult to make a meaningful difference in a region beset by deeply-rooted problems. Moreover, there is a risk that the UK’s capacity to do so will be reduced if it is no longer involved in the EU accession process. (Paragraph 20)

5.In its response to this report, the Government should set out what it wants to achieve in the Western Balkans over the next ten years, including specific milestones and metrics for success for trade and investment, aid and development, security and defence, and civil society. This should explain how the UK will work with its regional and EU partners, but it must also show that the UK has a credible and independent post-Brexit strategy for achieving its objectives in the region. (Paragraph 20)

6.UK businesses are not investing in the Western Balkans. If the UK is to build sustainable, mutually-beneficial bilateral relationships with the Western Balkans six, they must be based on more than security and development. Business should be part of a healthy bilateral relationship. (Paragraph 21)

7.The FCO should explain what the Government is doing to increase UK trade with the Western Balkans. (Paragraph 21)

The Berlin Process and the Western Balkans Summit

8.We welcome the Government’s bold ambitions for the Western Balkans Summit and the determination this shows for the UK to remain engaged in the region. The Summit’s agenda covers a wide range of issues but it will be difficult to achieve meaningful progress on so many fronts and to make a real difference on the ground. For the Summit to be more than a photo opportunity, the Government must be willing to push for a robust communiqué that sets out the challenges ahead and what is required of each Berlin Process partner. This must be accompanied by a set of specific milestones. (Paragraph 28)

9.The FCO should report to us the outcomes of the Summit, including civil society events, and tell us how it plans to ensure that pledges made at the Summit are followed through. The FCO should also reflect on the effectiveness of the Berlin Process, the feasibility of tackling so many issues in such a short space of time, and options for alternative and more focused ways for the Berlin Process partners to work together. In the light of concerns about local elites’ willingness to implement meaningful reforms, the report should also consider ways to increase civil society participation in the Western Balkans reform agenda. (Paragraph 29)

10.The Berlin Process offers a model for UK diplomacy post-Brexit. It allows the UK to work on a bilateral basis with each of the Western Balkans six, on a regional basis with the six together, and with the EU and its Member States in various configurations on a range of issues related to the region. If the Government is to deliver its vision of a Global Britain more active than ever on the world stage, it needs to learn lessons from this way of working. This is particularly the case in Europe, where the UK may need to find new ways of working with its EU and European partners at a time of increasing instability in Europe’s neighbourhood. (Paragraph 30)

Published: 6 July 2018