Reports

Joint Study on Drivers of Radicalisation in Balkans

17 April 2024

The Balkan region has been a focal point of concern regarding radicalisation and violent extremism (VE) in recent years. To address this critical issue, comprehensive research has been undertaken to explore the diverse drivers at play across various levels of analysis, including: religion, digitalisation, economic deprivation, political grievances, territorial inequalities, transnational dynamics, and educational, cultural and leisure opportunities.

This comparative analysis delves into three distinct levels − macro, meso and micro − to understand the multifaceted nature of these drivers. In particular, this study investigates the complex combinations and intersections of these drivers to enhance the understanding of radicalisation in the Balkans. At the macro level, the report investigates the interplay of religion and political grievances as potential drivers of radicalisation. The traditional view of religion as the dominant catalyst for extremism has evolved, and the analysis illuminates the shifting landscape, emphasising the role of regional religious institutions in preventing violent extremism (PVE). The study also explores the significant impact of political grievances, with context-dependent manifestations in the Balkans, closely tied to weak states, political unaccountability, corruption, and low trust in institutions.

Shifting the focus to the meso level, the role of digital literacy and transnational dynamics as drivers of radicalisation is examined. Lack of digital literacy has emerged as a key factor in the spread of extremist ideologies through social media and online platforms based on the selected case studies, which focused on online communities particularly. The analysis underscores the uneven approaches to address this issue across the Balkans. Additionally, the report highlights the influence of transnational dynamics in exacerbating the problem, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how this has shaped prevention and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) strategies.

At the micro level, the emphasis is placed on economic deprivation, political grievances, especially among youth who show political apathy, and the critical aspect of gender dimensions for understanding the drivers of radicalisation and VE in the Balkan countries. The analysis uncovers gender disparities in concerns about radicalisation, participation in religious activities, economic self-perceptions, safety perceptions, and trust in institutions. These patterns provide essential insights for designing more effective strategies tailored to different gender groups.

This comparative analysis aims to not only discuss the key drivers but also to highlight the ways in which these drivers interact. By understanding the intricate relationships between these drivers, researchers and experts can provide informed recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners to develop holistic and interconnected strategies that address the multifaceted nature of radicalisation in the Balkans. In the following sections, the report will delve deeper into each level of analysis, exploring the specific drivers and their combinations to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges at hand.

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