Southeastern Europe

Transitions, Prospects, Crossroads


Jelena Dzankic

Southeastern Europe is a fascinating microcosm of global politics, economy, history and culture. States and societies in this region change continuously and so do the institutions that represent them. Research on how and why will help us create applied knowledge for better regional, European, and global governance.

This research area aims to enhance our understanding of the political, social, economic and cultural trajectories of Southeastern Europe. It brings together a community of scholars based at the EUI and provides a forum for exchange with a wider network of scholars and practitioners interested in this region. The focus of our research is mainly on of the workings and shortcomings of democracy, regime transition, European integration, conflict and geopolitics. We welcome interdisciplinary and comparative scholarship and invite applications for Max Weber, Jean Monnet, or other fellowships in these and related fields of inquiry.

Major research areas and themes include:

  • Transitions of states and societies in Southeastern Europe. All countries in the region have been going through major political, economic and cultural transformations since the mid-1980s. Yet these transitions have not been simultaneous, linear, or consistent. We examine the causes and consequences of these distinct transitional trajectories, including competing nationalisms, weak and captured states, post-conflict reconciliation and institution-building, authoritarian backsliding, and political and economic development.
  • Prospects for European integration of the Western Balkans. Despite political commitments to European Union (EU) integration in the region, the accession process has been at a near stalemate for almost a decade. Political and economic incentives that had stimulated earlier transitions and motivated ‘Europeanisation’ seem to either fail or even have the reverse effect in the Western Balkans. By focusing on the dynamics and challenges of EU accession in the region, our interdisciplinary work studies why this has been the case, and propose avenues for strengthening the links between Europe and the Western Balkans.
  • Crossroads of geopolitical influence. Throughout history, Southeastern Europe been at the intersection of the ‘West’ and the ‘East’. The legacies of the Doge of Venice and the Hapsburg, Russian and Ottoman Empires still permeate the cultural, societal and economic spheres throughout the region. Most recently, Southeastern Europe has experienced increased engagement by the EU and the USA, both of whom are acting as external democratisers in a context of a growing economic presence of China, Central Asian and Gulf States, Russia and Turkey. Our research explores the intersecting, overlapping and often conflicting influences of third-party actors, seeking to understand how their interests and strategies impact upon the region’s past, present and future.

EUI associates and alumni