IN the past decade or so Balkan pollsters have asked people in the region every single question imaginable. When they drew their conclusions they seem almost surprised by what they found, despite the fact that people consistently tell them exactly the same things. That is, that in general, and with the exception of Kosovars and Albanians who are generally younger and hence more optimistic, most people in the Balkans feel pretty miserable.
They are concerned about jobs, health care, the education of their children and pensions. These material worries preoccupy them much more than ethnic grudges or the desire to reconquer territory they believe their nation has lost to a neighbour.
Most people have good reason to feel depressed about the economy. As Laza Kekic from the Economist Intelligence Unit, The Economist’s sister organisation, told a recent conference in Sofia, Balkan economies have always been poorer than their western and northern counterparts. They have only prospered when these economies do well and they have suffered when they have suffered. The current crisis is no exception.
This week an analysis from the EIU notes that the Balkan transition economies, which means Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, “suffered the most from the global recession of 2008-09. Real GDP in the Balkans contracted by 5.2% in 2009 and the recession lasted into 2010, with average GDP falling by 0.4%”. This was partly because Romania, the largest of the Balkan economies, dragged the average figure down. Read more.....