The Balkan region is at a historical juncture, as the SEECP (South East European Cooperation Process) is soon to celebrate its 15th anniversary. It is high time for regional countries to reflect on the past fifteen years and reassess the potential role this process could play in the future of the region. What was the joint vision that prompted the Balkan nations to initiate this process? What have been the achievements of the SEECP? What are the factors that render this process a vital component of regional affairs? What are the challenges before the further development of the SEECP? These are but a few questions that we, as the stakeholders in the creation of a peaceful and stable regional order in the Balkans, have to seriously ponder.
Despite the arguments that the forces of globalization reduce local differences and facilitate the emergence of a single global society, we are still living in a world of regions where local and regional processes increasingly gain prominence. The reality of regional or sub-regional cooperation has increasingly become a fact of the 21st century, as many nations move towards closer cultural, economic, and political interaction, if not integration, at the regional level. The Balkans region, which traditionally has been referred to as the prototype of fragmentation and disintegration, now stands a chance to emerge as yet another regional order in the making where a culture of cooperation prevails. This essay proposes an alternative vision for furthering regional cooperation around the SEECP, based on a set of methodology and policy principles, in an attempt to stimulate a wider debate on the subject in the intellectual and policy circles in the Balkan region. In particular, the essay outlines the normative bases and policy principles for regional cooperation, as the Balkan nations contemplate how to reorganize their institutional architecture in this new era.