- Publication date
- 19 July 2022
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
In recent years there has been an increasing concern about the potential for violent right-wing extremism (VRWE) in the Western Balkans: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Kosovo*1 , Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The region has been historically perceived as politically volatile with a history of violence that stems from right-wing (political) ideologies and actions.2 Experts and officials from the Western Balkans raise concerns about the spread of right-wing extremism (RWE) in the context of political conflict. Thus, this paper focuses on both not-yet-violent and violent extremist movements and activities in the Western Balkans.3
Experts and practitioners have used various terms to frame VRWE. There is, however, lack of a universal definition. In 2021 a group of Member States of the European Union (EU) participating in a Project Based Collaboration4 on Violent Right-Wing Extremism (Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Sweden) decided to adopt the following non-legally binding working definition:
“Violent right-wing extremism are acts of individuals or groups who use, incite, threaten with, legitimise or support violence and hatred to further their political or ideological goals, motivated by ideologies based on the rejection of democratic order and values as well as of fundamental rights, and centred on exclusionary nationalism, racism, xenophobia and/or related intolerance.”
In this paper, RWE is defined as an ideology that “encompasses authoritarianism, anti-democracy and exclusionary and/or holistic nationalism”. 5 Accompanying characteristics of the concept are xenophobia, racism and populism.6 Its violent manifestation (VRWE) is a form of political violence that has fluid boundaries between hate crime, terrorism7 and atrocity (e.g., genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing). 8 An inseparable feature of VRWE in the Western Balkans is ethno nationalism. This concept is based on a large-group identity that forms around common points – such as the myth of common descent, language and religion – and has ideological roots in nativism, racism, chauvinism, traditionalism, xenophobia, homophobia and supremacism. 9
The Western Balkans have numerous risk factors that can be related to RWE, such as unresolved identityrelated issues, conflicting historical and governance issues, in some cases difficult transition to a fully accomplished democracy, frozen conflict and administrative dysfunctionality. Yet, knowledge about RWE in the Western Balkans has been scattered and unorganised. This paper aims to integrate and systematise knowledge on RWE in the Western Balkans; it frames the most important challenges for preventing and countering this form of violent extremism.
After a brief introduction, RWE and tendencies towards VRWE in the Western Balkans will be elaborated. The most important RWE actors and factors – from Albania, BiH, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – that contribute to the sympathies for VRWE are systematically presented. The paper ends with the contextualisation of RWE radicalisation, a description of the main challenges for P/CVE in the Western Balkans and policy recommendations.