This report looks at each of the six Western Balkans countries listed above, identifies the key economic challenges they face and assesses whether any of these are, or have the potential to become, drivers of conflict. The literature reviewed largely comprised reports from international development/finance organisations, notably the World Bank, IMF and European Commission, as well as journal/newspaper articles.
The key conclusion is that, while all countries in the region face serious economic challenges, these are not per se drivers of conflict. To date the main effect of these – particularly of high unemployment – seems to be to drive outward migration from the Western Balkans to more advanced economies in Europe. But, as economic stresses grow, and at a time when the European Union is itself facing economic crisis, it is questionable whether this situation – economic factors not leading to social unrest – is sustainable (Economist, 2012); particularly given the presence of significant other (non-economic) conflict drivers in most countries.