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Functional Borders Sustainable Security: Integrating the Balkans in the European Union - IBEU, Final Report, EUR 22371

Project ID: HPSE-CT-2002-00131


Increasingly, references to the Balkans tend to underline the progress that has been accomplished since the early 1990s. At the same time, more often than not, it is argued that this progress falls well short of what is necessary and required.
High unemployment rates, significant macroeconomic imbalances, transactions undertaken outside the scope of the formal economy, discretionary applicability of rules and regulations, corruption, particularistic social capital and emigration, are highlighted as the region's main characteristics. In addition, regional co-operation across all sectors continues to be approached with caution and hesitation. These characteristics imply that there exist visible and invisible borders that cannot be easily overcome. Coupled to this, there exists a distance between formality and substance across the region. This distance breeds conditions of insecurity and unpredictability, and in turn nurtures reliance on informal networks and practices. Thus, security, in all its dimensions, remains the main issue in the Balkans.
Recourse to informal practice or informal exchange is a widespread phenomenon in South East Europe (SEE) because networks of economic and political agents, rather than markets, are the key features through which economic exchange is conducted. These networks operate as parallel, private systems of authority, advancing particularistic interests. Moreover, they create invisible borders of participation, often running along the lines of kinship, ethnicity or political affiliation, cutting across SEE societies and breeding insecurity. The scale and nature of involvement of state agents in these networks, where corruption, collusion and influence are instrumental, has made non-compliant behaviour into the norm at all levels of society. In turn, this has undermined social legitimacy of rules, thereby spreading informality and weakening social consensus against it. For businesses and individuals, the 'informality trap' becomes a

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