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The Social Capital as a Security Factor

Zora Ivanova Popova

‚ University of Bath, UK


The Balkans has been considered the melting pot of Europe for decades – a space of intersection of intensive interaction of peoples and cultures, of specific inter-ethnic dynamics and challenges, of clashes between unfinished national projects, of tensions and security challenges. Instead of peace, the collapse of communism in the end of the 20th century brought to the region security challenges, devastating wars, and some of the worst atrocities of the recent history. The process of democratization was marked by a range of opposite events – from claims for independence and armed clashes to peaceful transition, from NATO bombing to procedures for accession to NATO and EU, from economic progress to social and economic crisis. Yet, 20 years after the fundamental political changes, it seems that finally the Balkan countries have the chance to address the same goal without being in conflict – the project called the European Union. From a philosophical point of view the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the termination of the communist fellowship in the Balkans and the reunion of the countries from the region in the frameworks of the EU, can be viewed as a post-modern reconstruction of the deconstructed space. On the other hand however, this could well be regarded as a potential security challenge (this time also to the EU), since the type of socio-cultural relationships in the Balkans have not changed essentially, tensions have not been completely eradicated and some conflicts could well be regarded as in a latent phase. The type of societal structure and role of social capital has been widely ignored as security factors and mechanisms for establishing stability. It is the social contract that engages people from various backgrounds, ethnic and cultural origins and races into the same socio-political frameworks and forms the democratic civil community. When the civil identity (of an EU citizen, for example) becomes a dominant one and when the democratic values become prevalent, there would be no grounds for violent confrontations. The suggested paper focuses on the role of social capital reconstruction after an ethnic conflict (with focus on Bosnia and Herzegovina) for enabling success of the reconstruction process in general and for establishing lasting peace and stability within a region. It addresses the potential that the process of constructing the needed relevant social capital has for the future political and economic developments. The paper explores the different levels at which policy efforts should be directed in order to ensure achievement of expected outcomes. In a broader perspective, the lessons learned from the troubled reconstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina could be applied not only to the Balkan region with regard to the EU membership, but also to the countries of the Arab world, undergoing the period of civil emancipation, as well as to newly emerging states and countries that want to establish functioning and stable democracies.


About author:


Dr Zora Popova has obtained her degree from the University of Bath, UK for her PhD research thesis “The role of social capital for post-ethnic-conflict reconstruction (Bosnia and Herzegovina)”, focused on the problem of re-building of disintegrated societies. Zora Popova has also MA degree in Cultural studies from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria (2000) and MA degree in Southeast European Studies from the Unversity of Athens, Greece (2001). She has been involved in number of research projects on topics like the Rise of the Extreme Right in Europe, Charismatic Leadership, Bulgaria and the European Political Values, etc. Dr Popova is currently working as an expert in the Unit for Alternative Prognoses, Analyses and Actions with the Administration of the President of Republic of Bulgaria and contributes to the online media for political, social and economic analyses ARGUMENTI.BG.