IBEU Integrating the Balkans in the European Union: Functional Borders and Sustainable Security

The IBEU research project studied social capital, migration flows, the informal sector and the prospects for regional co-operation in different economic sectors within and across Southeastern Europe. It focused on these areas through the lens of the changing nature of borders and security.
The partners of the IBEU consortium carried out extensive empirical research carried out in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, FYROM, Croatia as well as in Italy and Greece. The research combined sociological surveys, qualitative interviews, focus group analyses, literature review, economic and statistical analyses and ethnographic fieldwork, thereby bringing together the perspectives, the tools and the methodologies from various disciplines of the social sciences. The project’s empirical research on the informal sector and regional co-operation along with the sociological surveys on social capital and migration flows have explored the influence of borders, both formal and informal, in shaping socio-economic developments in the Balkans.
The notion of ‘functional borders’ aiming at the spread of civil society, the rule of law and regional cooperation across borders and among countries was put forward. The study investigated the argument of ‘functional borders’ by looking at four policy areas of a cross-border nature:
-         Civil Society and Social Capital through assessing of the nature of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ social capital and related civil society programmes;
-         Informal Sector through examining the informal economy, fiscal transparency and trans-border trade and privatisation;
-         Regional Cooperation concentrating on trade, banking and infrastructure; and
-         Migration seen as an engine of growth and development and/or a problems-transmitting mechanism.
CLS was the leading partner for the Work Package “Social Capital and Civil Society”. This WP concentrated on civil society in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and FYROM. The IBEU team explored the concept of social capital in order to understand the dividing lines that exist within these societies and the factors that determine these dividing lines. Social capital was studied in terms of trust among population groups within each country and towards the state institutions.
The survey that was conducted through the IBEU in these countries shed light on the factors that influence positive and negative social capital. In addition, workshop meetings were held in Sofia and in Bucharest to derive comparative conclusions from the analysis of each country’s data and to further develop the concept of particularism with respect to Southeast Europe.
Based on four nationally representative samples (Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro), we analyzed the link between some important socio-demographic factors and various measures of social capital.
A brief look at the context in each of the four countries indicates that they do form a region, characterized by relatively low levels of economic development, coupled with the need to complete various major social reforms, and with generally rich ethnic composition and relatively large minorities.
The formal analysis of the impact of socio-demographic factors on the different measures of social capital results in the conclusion that these factors cannot serve as an explanation of the variations in social capital in all four surveys.
The policy assumption, which is relatively well supported by the survey results from the four Balkan countries, is that empowerment of local authorities may enhance social trust and civic participation. Another policy assumption is very tentatively supported: that improvements in institutional performance cause higher subjective evaluations of this performance and from there – higher trust. The assumptions which find no support in the four surveys, are that income and general economic well-being result in higher social capital, and that enhanced personal security are also positively related to social capital. More information is available at

Period: December 2003 - January 2005
Coordinators: Georgy Ganev, Yana Papazova
Financing Organisations: Fifth Framework Programme of the European Commissin
Partners: Istituto per l’Europa Centro-Orientale e Balcanica (IECOB - Forli); Institute for Market Economics (IME - Sofia); Romanian Academic Society (SAR - Bucharest); Southeast European Studies Programme (Oxford University); Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, WIIW; London School of Economics (LSE), UK
Economic Perspectives European Union