Researching state’s and societies’ identity provides the groundwork for a better understanding of the political and social development in the Western Balkan region (i.e. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia / FYR of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). Identity is constructed and transforms over time. It shapes states and societies and impacts on political behaviour. Research on the region’s identity is of relevance as countries are meant to move towards the European Union, accepting, complying and adapting the EU’s rules, norms and values. The focus lies on the current transformational processes, as well as nation building processes, and their regional cooperation activities, in the context of their EU rapprochement.
The states in the region attempt to strengthen their national identity, to comply with the EU’s demand that only politically stable states are eligible to join the EU, although this development seems to be contrary to the general idea of the EU.
Identity used as a political tool divides people, but some other aspects of identity might help to overcome national borders, such as language and culture. The issue of identity is also significant for the analysis of the interpretation of historical legacies and the retaining of society-based values. Although, countries attempt to construct a distinct national identity to support their state-building processes, these identities clash, especially in a region where overlapping ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural spheres exists. These clashes might lead to a loss of trust and understanding between the countries. The emerging bilateral conflicts hinder the process of the European integration, which the EU attempts to overcome by supporting regional cooperation initiatives. Understanding the construction of identity and the interpretation of elements of identity within its regional context is the basis for transforming these aspects to provide for an inclusive rather than an exclusive policy among states in the region. The view of experts from the V4-region to answer some of the questions of identity in the WB region adds another perspective to this topic of research.
The project tries to raise awareness on issues related to identity in the Western Balkans. Therefore, the project aims to support an academic discourse on the issue of identity in the Western Balkans, which will include the perspective and/or comparative approach from scholars from the V4-region. Academics, researchers, experts and civil society organisations (CSO) from the V4 and Western Balkan (WB) countries working on or dealing with aspects of identity in the WB region are able to discuss their research, to network, and exchange research ideas. This discussions should result in academic papers, which will be collated and published in an edited volume. These discussions will be facilitated during three public events on the topics of identity, regional identity and elements shaping identity. The knowledge and expertise of the researchers and practitioners from the V4 and the WB region are brought together in the frame of the events. The workshops will be open to the public.
The project aspires to raise interest on the issues of identity in the Western Balkan states and that it will be able to reach out to a broader audience.
The project will include a series of workshops and the final outcome of the project is an edited book in cooperation with the project partners. The timeline of events is given below: