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Book Review: Lutem, Coskun, Balkan Diplomasisi [Balkan Diplomacy], Reviewed by Bestami S. Bilgic

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  • Florian Bieber
    Balkan Academic Book Review 31/2001 _______________________________________ Omer E. Lutem and Birgul Demirtas Coskun (eds.) Balkan Diplomasisi. Ankara: ASAM,
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      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 [1] 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 Romania.

      The articles cover mainly the foreign policies of the Balkan countries with special focus on the 1990s. Croatia’s 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 tension.

      “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. [2] 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.


      [1] Avrasya Stratejik Arastirmalar Merkezi (Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies) is a prominent think-tank based in Ankara, Turkey.

      [2] Mark Mazower discusses this point briefly in his The Balkans (New York: The Modern Library, 2000) pp.155-156

      This an earlier book reviews are available at: www.seep.ceu.hu/balkans

      © 2001 Balkan Academic News. This review may be distributed and reproduced electronically, if credit is given to Balkan Academic News and the author.For permission for re-printing, contact Balkan Academic News.
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