Wednesday, May 22, 2024


The European Union (EU) is the most perfect project of liberal democracy. Membership in this Union is achieved neither by occupation, nor by pressure, nor by conditioning, but by application. Each of the states applies for membership, committing to accept and cultivate the basic values ​​of the Union, such as human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. 

Author: Xhelal Neziri

Realism has characterized international relations for the past 150 years. The First and Second World Wars, as well as the Cold War, failed to create an environment in which international institutions would play a major role in maintaining peace and states would be guided by so-called international morality.

Part of this table is of course the Balkans, a region that is often synonymous with nationalism, hatred and wars between the peoples who live there. After the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1990, realism became the only approach to relations between nations, and then between newly created states.


Realism and liberalism remain the main political theories in international relations. Proponents of realism believe that the world is ruled by anarchy, therefore the state is necessary to protect its citizens. States are in constant conflict with each other to protect their national interests, so they should be the only factor in these relations. According to realists, values, principles or reason should not be an obstacle to achieving these goals of the state. State security is the main objective of realists and, to achieve this, it is necessary to ensure the balance of power between states. States, according to the supporters of this theory, if they are in a constant situation of conflict and possible hostility, should not depend on each other. International institutions or supranational unions should not determine or replace the national interests of each state separately.

On the other hand, liberals say that states are important actors in international relations, but they are not the only ones. In this context, actors from political, civil and economic society, such as non-governmental organizations, chambers of commerce, citizens’ associations, etc., can play an important role. Instead of anarchy, liberals view relations between states with optimism, emphasizing a possible order and harmony based on international moral values. Therefore, they put values, principles and reason before narrow state interests. Unlike realists, liberals see an excellent opportunity for achieving and maintaining peace within international institutions, such as the IMF, WTO, UN, EU and NATO.

Realists prefer competition, while liberals prefer cooperation. While the former think that influence can only be achieved through the use of “hard power”, such as military intervention, the latter require the use of “soft power”, i.e. influence through diplomatic channels, providing funds, markets, experiences, investments and other benefits to states.

Liberalists condition cooperation with other countries on democratic values, on respect for human rights, dignity and freedom. They believe that if states share the same democratic values, they are very unlikely to come into direct conflict. And vice versa – democracies are prone to wars with authoritarian, dictatorial and other forms of non-democratic regimes. For realists, it does not matter if the state they cooperate with cultivates these values, it is enough that that cooperation is in the interest of the state and its security.

The “export” of democracy, values ​​or international morality to third countries, according to them, is a waste of time and resources. As examples, they cite the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the United States failed to create a democratic system for the functioning of these countries.


In ancient Greece, the historian and general Thucydides saw relations between states from a completely different, realistic angle. He believes that in relations between states the strongest dominates. The strong, according to him, do what must be done, while the weak accept what must be accepted.

Niccolo Machiavelli in his work “The Prince” says that moral values ​​should not be respected when the interest of the state is at stake. His work was written after a period of wars and turmoil between the Italian republics. Machiavelli in his work says that in order to maintain security and the state, the leader must rule with a “strong hand”, whether this is contrary to moral values, religion or humanity.

In the same line with Machiavelli is the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who is considered one of the founders of political realism. He says that society without government is in the state of nature. In that state, all are against all, while individuals are lonely, poor, mean, rude, and small. Hobbes, as a supporter of absolutism, says that a state cannot exist without a powerful ruler. His idea is that every society needs an absolute ruler, to whom everyone would obey because he would be invincible and no one would dare to challenge the rules he would set. The purpose of this great ruler, according to Hobbes, would be to prevent people from destroying each other. He does not have an optimistic approach to man in the state of nature. He wrote these views in Leviathan shortly after the civil war in England in the 17th century, unrest that shaped his ideas for a powerful government that would prevent society from self-destructing

On the other hand, we have the philosopher John Locke, a constitutionalist and thinker, who is considered the founder of liberalism as a political theory. He opposes Hobbesian absolutism and tries to limit the power of government with laws and constitutions. He says that man has rights given by nature, that is, by God, which are inviolable, such as: freedom, life and property. Where Locke agrees with Hobbes is that these three natural human rights are very difficult to protect in a natural, ungovernable state. In such a situation, someone who is stronger can limit your freedom, take your property, even your life. To guarantee these natural rights, Locke says that a social contract must be drafted that will be approved and respected by all, which today is known as the Constitution. Government, according to Locke, has the duty to enforce this social contract and to protect the liberty, life, and property of each individual. If not, then the citizens have the right to overthrow that power through revolution. In this case, society returns to its natural state and builds a new government from scratch, capable of protecting basic rights.


After Republican Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016, his first meeting was with Henry Kissinger, the theorist, author and former Secretary of State. From this moment, analysts in the US and Europe announced that Trump’s new doctrine in international relations will not change much from his election program, entitled “America First”.

Kissinger is a known supporter of realpolitik, who does not believe that international institutions can guarantee global peace and security. (Real-Politics refers to policies that imply pragmatism, i.e. evaluating political approaches and theories through the prism of the results they can produce. Realism as a political theory, on the other hand, represents a philosophy that deals with relations in international politics.) It believes that conflict can be a rational tool if it is the only way to protect national interests, while the balance of power and true world order is the only way to maintain global peace. He served as US Secretary of State from 1969 to 1977, and is considered one of the most successful in the history of this country. He is known for relaxing relations with the Soviet Union and China. In one of his last works, “World Order”, published in 2013, he believes that the bipolar world ended with the Cold War, while since 2008 the world has started to become multipolar. Kissinger believes that not every civilization can share the same values ​​with the West, referring to the impossibility of democracy coexisting with Islamic states. According to him, the new world order should be based on several regional powers, which will take responsibility for maintaining world security. Therefore, working on his new doctrine, Trump shook up transnational relations with the EU by seeing NATO as a security structure from which all members benefit, while the United States pays the bill.

Putting American state interests ahead of the values ​​that liberals built and constructivist ideals, Trump tried to undermine international institutions (UN, NATO, WHO…) by withdrawing from international agreements, as well as imposing unilateral solutions.

In general, the right-wing bases their approaches to international relations on realism as a political theory, and their actions on the international political scene are mainly real-political. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a rule. During Trump’s tenure, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen as a world politician who kept alive multilateralism and the values ​​of liberal democracy. Merkel was president of the CDU, a right-wing party according to her ideology. On the other hand, the decision to withdraw forces from Afghanistan by the end of August 2021 was explained by the new American president, Joe Biden, with the words that this mission achieved its goal by eliminating Osama bin Laden, responsible for the terrorist attacks against the USA in in 2001. In this regard, the fact that democratic values ​​are under great danger from the Telebans, as a theocratic regime inclined to suppress human rights and freedoms, was not taken into account.


Realism as an approach to efforts to find a solution to the Belgrade-Pristina dispute remained dominant. Only the governments of the two countries continue to participate in the negotiation process, which are guided exclusively by state interests. The states in this dispute are the only actors, without including other actors of social and political life from both states, such as actors of civil or economic society.

The dialogue between the two countries, which began in 2012, has so far produced 36 agreements that provide for the facilitation of the movement of people and capital, as well as other topics of interest to ordinary people, but only some of them have been implemented, and that partially. In this whole process, the realist school is the main paradigm for the two states, which have state interests in the first place and not the values ​​that are the core of the liberal school.

Liberalism as a theory prevails in the relations between Albania and Serbia in recent years. Both countries, together with North Macedonia, are part of the Open Balkans initiative, which has yet to be determined if it is complementary to the Berlin Process launched by Merkel in 2013, as well as to the Stabilization-Association Process of the EU, or excludes those European initiatives. Understanding the possibilities of unifying the capacities of the Western Balkans (Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro), which do not represent a market with more than 18 million inhabitants, Albania and Serbia are convinced that with the Open Balkans, the countries of this problematic region would enter another peaceful, more progressive and inclusive phase, where the states would not be seen as competitors, but as collaborators in achieving common goals. If the EU is the most successful product of liberalism, then the Open Balkans would be a copy of the European model.

North Macedonia’s problem with Bulgaria over language and history, with Greece over the name of the state, and with Serbia over the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (KOM), derives from the classical realist approach of neighboring countries, which use their stronger position to to. impose solutions that are consistent with their stated national interests. North Macedonia faces an asymmetric relationship with all these countries, where Greece and Bulgaria use their membership position in NATO and the EU to impose solutions that mainly preserve their state interests. The issue with Serbia is of a religious nature, but at the same time behind the scenes it also involves the states. Considering the fact that the autocephalous church in Orthodoxy represents one of the important pillars of ethnic identity, the interest of the state of Serbia is precisely in this segment – to prevent the strengthening of the identity of the Macedonian people and to strengthen the already great influence that it achieves precisely through the structures of the KOM.

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