n.30 June 2010

Since the late 1990s, the Western Balkans have opened the door to the prospect of joining EuroAtlantic institutions, including the EU and NATO. But unresolved issues rooted in past conflicts continue to impede forwardprogress. Former Montenegrin envoy to Italy Miodrag Lekic admits that the region remains bogged down in animosity, but expresses cautious optimism that the combination of new leadership in Croatia and Bosnia’sproWestern stance may lead to a reordering of priorities with European inclusion as a common regional goal.

The muscle that once characterized Russian underworld growth has been replaced by an emphasis on white-collar financial crimes, many of which get their start in unassuming places, including hotel lobbies. Gangland brutality has yielded to low profile savoir-faire, intended above all to defuse police pressure. At the same time, old-school business in prostitution, drugs and weapons is still booming, with multinational clans taking full advantage of safe havens such as Montenegro as well as lax enforcement on the part of the European Union

Until two decades ago, Dnipropetrovsk, renamed in 1926 to honor Ukrainian Communist Party leader Grigory Petrovsky, was the main production site for Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missiles. An imposing statue of Petrovsy, hands outstretched symbolically towards the east, still lords over the entrance to the city's train station. The city's secret military output made it an enclave for engineers, military technicians, and nuclear experts. Now,it is trying to transform itself.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Josip Broz Tito celebrated the "brotherhood and unity" of the six republics that formed his Yugoslavia. Train travel between Belgrade and Sarajevo was a constant and the carriages packed. But ethnic strife and war put an end to that prosperous time. Now, train service between the two cities has resumed after 17 years. Though a sign of hope in a troubled region, the service is slow, the bureaucracy overwhelming, and the passengers few.