Comparative Politics

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By Dimitar Bechev

Neighborhood cooperation has turn into a particular characteristic of the Balkans, a space recognized for its turbulent politics. Exploring the origins and dynamics of this transformation, this booklet highlights the transformative energy of the european and different overseas actors.

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Extra resources for Constructing South East Europe: The Politics of Balkan Regional Cooperation (St. Antony's)

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27 This limited local demand for institutionalized multilateral cooperation within the region. The notable exception was former Yugoslavia where, however, political divisions trumped economic considerations. Loose, bilateral cooperation was the more likely course of action for states in South East Europe. Transport Even if it was pulling South East Europe apart, the increasing economic prominence of the EU presented incentives for cooperation in sectors such as transport. 8 As a rule, border crossings bottlenecked regional traffic due to inadequate infrastructure, equipment, human capital and pervasive corrupt practices.

No longer the proverbial ‘threat from the north’, Bulgaria had abandoned its claims to the Greece’s border provinces. The end of the colonels’ regime in 1974 and Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis’ overtures to his Balkan counterparts added further momentum to rapprochement, as did common fears of Turkey in the wake of the Cyprus intervention of 1974. The forced assimilation of Bulgaria’s Turkish minority, numbering some 800,000 in 1984–9, made relations with Turkey overtly hostile but cemented the semi-formal alliance with Greece.

Growing trade deficits with the West and the oil shocks of the 1970s pushed up Romania’s foreign debt. In response, the country’s strongman, Nicolae Ceaus¸escu, embarked in the 1980s on drastic consumptioncurbing measures, which put living standards under a terrible strain and deprived industries of modern technology while doing little to bolster productivity. Bulgaria and Romania’s agriculture was in a sorry state due to the outdated technology and labour shortages in rural areas. Repression of national minorities such as the Turks and the Hungarians, who were often concentrated in the countryside, only worsened both countries’ predicament.

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