Small is Beautiful: Citizens’ Movements Are Bringing Democratic Change to Balkans

However, even in these countries, the challenges are huge and are not made easier by the fact that the whole region remains volatile - and that a spirit of corruption, authoritarianism and power-politics remains vivid in so many parts of the Western Balkans.

On top of that, it has to be acknowledged, even if it hurts, that the European vision for the region has seen better days.

Some argue that the EU is rapidly losing ground in the region and is facing proactive and clearly anti-democratic competition from China or Russia.

If this is true, the question is what is happening with democracy, freedom, justice and equality - with all these principles that are the cornerstones of efforts to democratize and Europeanize societies.

And the answer is - they are still very much alive - within engaged citizens assembled around local initiatives, social movements, free and independent media, social businesses, free media, or simply within brave and courageous individuals.

We all remember the protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2013 and 2014, the so called "Bosnian Spring", when, for the first time since the 1992-5 war, Bosnian citizens actually felt able to exercise pressure on the responsible authorities.

They felt that a transformative power was an integrative part of their demands and that their joint uprising had the potential to lead to long overdue changes in Bosnia's gridlocked political and economic systems.

It was in Bosnia that the new dimension of deliberation was practiced for the first time in the region - the citizens' "plena".

Even though the Bosnian plena in the end collapsed, it created new narratives that can be mobilized in future. It paved a way for new platforms for civic activism and encouraged...

Continue reading on: