With the exception of Albania, countries situated in the Western Balkans region are ex-Yugoslavia entities sharing the same or similar language, traditions, and consist of family connections crossing borders.
As the democracy movement swept the Eastern Bloc in the 1990s, not every country benefited equally and, independence, peace, and democracy spread unevenly. Tensions grew, conflict emerged, and the region did not see peace until 2002.
Though conflict has ceased, the post-war era has been defined by fragile democracies, political and economic instability, ongoing struggle with the European Union integration process and continuous balancing between confronting stances on the West and East.
The region has had an ongoing battle with lack of rule of law, weak institutions, low economic development, widespread corruption, degraded media, and regional cooperation only on a declarative level.
Additionally, the region has been greatly affected by the migration crisis. Refugees and migrants have entered Bosnia using the “Balkan migrant route.” Bosnia now finds itself struggling to accommodate thousands of people who are trying to reach wealthier EU countries.
Meanwhile, political tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have become problematic not only for the two countries in question but for the entire Western Balkans.
In such a vulnerable environment, the societies are becoming easy targets of the anti-democratic and harmful influences, from outside and inside, aiming to destabilize their countries.
disinformation in the western balkans
Unlike different regions the Beacon Project works in, disinformation in the Western Balkans is unique. Although the purpose of disinformation serves the same goal, to divide society and weaken democracy, its effects come in different forms.
In Serbia, disinformation is not perpetrated exclusively by malign foreign actors; instead, citizens are encouraged to be skeptical of state-sponsored media—which have been accused of being responsible for pushing false narratives for their own gains.
In Serbia, a Beacon Project a participant from BIH, referencing the government’s tripartite presidency, stated, "The only thing the presidents ever agreed on was state control of media."
our partners in the region
Our partners in the Western Balkans come from a variety of backgrounds. IRI works with independent journalists, think tanks, fact checkers, and multiple civil society organizations in the region. In bringing together a diverse group of individuals and organizations, IRI upgrades the tool-box available to all Beacon partners across the Transatlantic space.