Balkan Academic Book Review 31/2001
Omer E. Lutem and Birgul Demirtas Coskun (eds.) Balkan Diplomasisi.
Ankara: ASAM, 2001. 311 pp., ISBN 975-6769-16-5 (paperback).
Reviewed by Bestami S. Bilgic (The George Washington University,
Washington, DC) Email: bestami@...
Many in Turkey have said many things about the importance of the Balkans
for Turkey. Romantic references to the Ottoman heritage have been made.
The cultural similarities between the peoples of the Balkans have been
underlined. The security considerations have been echoed. The economic
dimension is often pointed to have played an important role in the
relations between Turkey and the Balkan countries. Nonetheless, one
cannot help wonder why the amount of academic books published in Turkey
on the history and politics of the region is not proportional with the
above mentioned rhetoric. Apart from translations from other languages,
there are only a few works in the Turkish language about the history and
politics of the Balkans.
ASAM  attempts to fill this gap a bit with this book on the Balkan
diplomacy in the 1990s. Edited by Ambassador Omer E. Lutem, the head of
the Balkan Studies Desk in ASAM, and Birgul Demirtas-Coskun, researcher
in the same section, this book is a collection of 13 articles written by
several Turkish researchers and three non-Turkish contributors, Amer
Kapetanovic and Tufik Burnazovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Mihai Manea of
The articles cover mainly the foreign policies of the Balkan countries
with special focus on the 1990s. Croatias foreign policy is included,
too, whereas that of Slovenia is left aside. There is also one piece
about the nationalism of the Kosovar Albanians, by Emir Turkoglu, which
is evidently considered by the editors as relevant to the general
framework in the whole book, even though Kosovo/a does not have any
independent foreign policy as such. Also, the policies of the EU, NATO,
the United States and Russia vis-à-vis the region are analyzed.
The Wars of Yugoslav Succession, the Albanian question in the Balkans,
and the Turkish-Greek relations form the bulk of the discussions. The
analyses in the book show that contrary to the conventional wisdom the
Yugoslav wars generated the rise of nationalism in the 1990s, not the
other way round. The Albanian question, on the other hand, still remains
to be solved, as the recent developments in Macedonia have shown us. At
this point, too, the analyses in the book challenge another conventional
idea that there is a compact Albanian entity in the Balkans. A particular
attention is drawn to the differences between the Albanians in Kosovo/a,
in Macedonia and in Albania proper. The
answer of the question whether a Greater Albania, including Kosovo/a,
Western Macedonia, Albania and northwest of Greece, is a genuine Albanian
aspiration, or a fabrication by others to turn the world public opinion
against the Albanians needs more time to be seen clearly. It seems that
there is modicum of truth in both cases. In the book it is argued that it
is rather early for the observers of the region to provide a viable
answer to this question. Coming to the Turkish-Greek relations, Murat
Hatipoglu takes a skeptical stance and questions the substantiality of
the current rapprochement. He argues that not much has changed in the
positions of the two countries as regards the bilateral issues that cause
Balkan Diplomasisi shows us that foreign policy concerns of the Balkan
countries in the 1990s were not very much different than those of any
other European country. Irredentist dreams or nostalgic sighs in the
region are faint today. Greeks do not make references to the Northern
Epirus (Southern Albania) or Bulgarians do not make an issue of
Macedonia or Romanians do not venture in reclaiming Bessarabia etc.
 The Balkan countries indeed have domestic ethnic problems but these
do not bring two or more states to actual
war. Today the Balkan states turn their face to the West and yearn for
admission to the Western economic and security structures. Among
themselves they discuss how to overcome environmental problems, how to
deal with organized crime, how to better transportation means, and
finally how to establish bilateral and regional economic cooperation
fora. ASAM seems to have thought necessary to bring these issues to the
attention of the Turkish reader.
 Avrasya Stratejik Arastirmalar Merkezi (Center for Eurasian Strategic
Studies) is a prominent think-tank based in Ankara, Turkey.
 Mark Mazower discusses this point briefly in his The Balkans (New
York: The Modern Library, 2000) pp.155-156
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