Opportunities for Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) in the Western Balkans

This project combines collaborative research and dialogue initiatives on the Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia. Together with four local research partners, we explore why some communities are particularly affected by individuals inspired by and/or joining the Islamic State (IS) or other similar violent extremist groups, while other communities may show greater resilience to the same phenomenon. Based on the research findings, the project partners will conduct policy outreach and local dialogue initiatives, in cooperation with local stakeholders and affected communities, in order to explore and develop strategies to prevent violent radicalisation in the Western Balkans. Particular focus will be placed on the role of civil society actors (especially youths and religious leaders), in close collaboration with state institutions, in transforming the drivers of vulnerability and building resilient communities. In addition, the project will conduct intra-regional comparative analysis and exchange, as well as cross-regional peer-exchange with PVE practitioners and experts from the MENA region.


July 2017- June 2019

The Western Balkans countries have been in the spotlight of international attention in recent years due to their position as Europe’s top exporters of volunteers fighting for radical Islamist organisations in countries such as Syria and Iraq.  Yet local and regional stakeholders and affected communities are still grappling with finding effective responses and preventive measures to tackle this phenomenon. Thus, there is a strong need for the region to develop inclusive and targeted programs which can help building resilient states and communities against violent extremism.


Through the combination of comparative research and practice-oriented local and intra-regional exchange in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia, this project  explores the respective factors influencing local communities’ vulnerability or resilience to violent Islamist extremism. Through local outreach and dialogue activities with local stakeholders and affected communities as well as public authorities, the project will also develop collaborative ways to improve PVE programming at the local, national and regional level. The project will also probe into the potential benefits of connecting PVE activities with regional peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts in order to tackle the root causes of violent radicalisation and extremism. Finally, the project will bring in comparative experiences in the prevention of violent extremism from countries in the MENA region during a dedicated peer-learning workshop, in order to inform the research, community dialogue and outreach activities.

Aims and outcomes

The main purpose of this project is to offer empirically-based policy advice to local, national and international actors on how to improve PVE programming in the Western Balkans. Furthermore, the project aims to contribute to the academic knowledge on the factors of community vulnerability or resilience to violent extremism. These overarching goals will be implemented through four specific objectives: (1) conduct in-depth field research in the four case study countries and comparative cross-case analysis on the factors of vulnerability and resilience to the phenomenon of violent Islamist extremism; (2) support cross-regional peer-advice and exchange with MENA experts on how to best address the root causes and driving factors of violent extremism in the Western Balkans; (3) formulate, present and disseminate policy recommendations for relevant local and national target groups on how to improve PVE programming in the four countries; and (4) conduct pilot dialogue activities in local communities in close coordination with youth representatives, religious authorities and local institutions, in order to explore, ‘test’ and operationalise relevant project findings and recommendations. 


The project activities will be carried out in four Western Balkan countries, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

Dissemination conference at German Federal Foreign Ministry, 20 November 2018

The publication of all four country case studies culminated in a final dissemination conference at the German Federal Foreign Ministry. The international, policy-oriented dissemination conference highlighted the findings and recommendations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia. The implementing partners shared their insights into why some communities are particularly affected by violent extremist incidents, while other communities may show greater resilience to the same phenomenon. Local stakeholders shared their reflections on the applicability of findings in their communities. Jointly, the research partners together with the Berghof project team and international experts discussed and refined strategies for international support and national/local initiatives to prevent violent radicalisation in the Western Balkans. 

September / October 2018

Pilot dialogues and outreach events are held in all four partner countries.

Meeting in Skopje, July 2018

The sixth and last project partners’ meeting took place in Skopje, on 4 and 5 July 2018, hosted by the Macedonian partner organization Democracy Lab. The focus of this meeting was once again on a joint and in-depth discussion of the (near complete) country report drafts prepared by all four partners. The meeting also served as a platform to review the planned structure for the comparative analysis and report. Moreover, all four teams presented detailed plans for their outreach and pilot dialogue events, with local dissemination conferences scheduled to begin in September 2018.

2nd advisory board meeting and partners meeting in Berlin, May 2018

After the peer-exchange with colleagues from other regions, the researchers from the Western Balkans gathered two more days to reflect and work together, as well as to discuss with members of the project’s Advisory Board.

Peer Exchange Workshop "Opportunities for the Prevention of Violent Extremism: Reflecting on PVE Experiences from MENA, the Western Balkans and Western Europe", Berlin, May 2018

A peer-exchange event in Berlin on 14 and 15 May 2018 brought together more than 30 experts, researchers, religious leaders and policy-makers from the Western Balkans, the MENA region and Western Europe to share their experiences and knowledge about preventing violent extremism. > News

Meeting in Sarajevo, March 2018

The fourth partners' meeting took us to Sarajevo, where Altantic Initiative hosted us on 26-27 March 2018. The project partners discussed the first drafts of the country case studies, preliminary findings of the research data, cross-case comparability as well as next steps. A specific focus was to explore further the link between PVE activities and peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts.

Meeting in Prishtina, January 2018

The third partners' meeting took place from 25-26 January, 2018 in Prishtina, hosted by the Kosovar Center for Security Studies. During the gathering, we discussed the current field research methodology applied by project partner organisations, the very first preliminary findings of the research data, other project objectives and technicalities of the report writing as well as next steps. Moreover, we began to develop ideas on cross-country comparability.

Meeting in Tirana, October 2017

On October 12-13, 2017, the second project partners’ meeting was held in Tirana, hosted by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (Albania). The meeting purpose was to discuss the research framework and to plan for field research, which will be carried out from November 2017 to March 2018. During the field research phase, the country teams will explore the role of different actors and factors that may shape community vulnerability and resilience towards violent extremism in a set of municipalities in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

Project inception meeting in Berlin, July 2017

On 19-21 July the project’s inception meeting was held in Berlin. It brought together an interdisciplinary Advisory Board members comprising of five experts in the field, and representatives from our four partner organisations with the aim of discussing jointly the project focus, design and methodology. News >

This project is carried out in collaboration with:

The project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

  • Redion Qirjazi & Romario Shehu: Community Perspectives on Preventing Violent Extremism in Albania. Country Case Study 4. Berlin/Tirana: Berghof Foundation and Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), 2018. link >
  • Redion Qirjazi & Romario Shehu: Perspektivat Komunitare për Parandalimin e Ekstremizmit të Dhunshëm në Shqipëri. Rasti studimor 4. Tirana/Berlin: Instituti për Demokraci dhe Ndërmjetësim (IDM) dhe Berghof Foundation, 2018. link >
  • Rudine Jakupi & Garentina Kraja: Accounting for the Difference: Vulnerability and Resilience to Violent Extremism in Kosovo. Country Case Study 3. Berlin/Pristina: Berghof Foundation and Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS), 2018. link >
  • Rudine Jakupi & Garentina Kraja: Shpjegimi i dallimit: Cenueshmëria dhe Qëndrueshmëria ndaj Ekstremizmit të Dhunshëm në Kosovë. Rasti i studimit 3. Pristina/Berlin: Qendra Kosovare për Studime të Sigurisë (QKSS) dhe Berghof Foundation, 2018. link >
  • Rudine Jakupi & Garentine Kraja: Objašnjenje razlika: Ranjivost i Otpornost na Nasilni Ekstremizam na Kosovu. Studija 3. Pristina/Berlin: Kosovski Centar za Studije Sigurnosti (KCSS) i Berghof Foundation, 2018. link >
  • Sead Turcalo & Nejra Veljan: Community Perspectives on Preventing Violent Extremism in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Country Case Study 2. Berlin/Sarajevo: Berghof Foundation and Atlantic Initiative, 2018. link >
  • Sead Turčalo i Nejra Veljan 2018. Perspektive zajednice o prevenciji nasilnog ekstremizma u Bosni i Hercegovini. Studija Slučaja broj 2. Sarajevo/Berlin: Atlantska inicijativa i Berghof Fondacija. link >
  • Filip Stojkovski & Natasia Kalajdziovski: Perspektivat e Komunitetit në Parandalimin e Ekstremizmit të Dhunshëm në Maqedoni. Country Case Study 1. Skopke/Berlin: Democracy Lab and Berghof Foundation, 2018. link >
  • Filip Stojkovski & Natasia Kalajdziovski: Перспективи на Заедницата за Спречување на Насилен Екстремизам во Македонија.
    Country Case Study 1. Skopje/Berlin: Democracy Lab and Berghof Foundation, 2018. link >
  • Filip Stojkovski & Natasia Kalajdziovski: Community Perspectives on Preventing Violent Extremism in Macedonia. Country Case Study 1. Berlin/Skopje: Berghof Foundation and Democracy Lab, 2018. link >
  • Transformative Approaches to Violent Extremism, Berghof Handbook Dialogue No. 13, 2018. link >
  • "What is actually needed is to invent new terms", an interview with our local research partners on radical new norms and experiences with prevention in the Western Balkans in Berghof Handbook Dialogue No. 13, 2018. link >
  • Anita Ernstorfer: Effective Approaches to Preventing Violent Extremism: A Peacebuilding Systems Perspective. A comment by our advisory board member in Berghof Handbook Dialogue Series No. 13, 2018. link >

List of related publications:

  • Between Salvation and Terror: Radicalization and the Foreign Fighter Phenomenon in the Western Balkans. link >
  • Religious Radicalism and Violent Extremism in Albania. link >
  • Report inquiring into causes and consequences of Kosovo citizens involvement as foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. link >
  • Citizens views against violent extremism and radicalization in Kosovo. link >
  • Women in Violent Extremism: Lessons Learned from Kosovo. link >
  • Mapping the state of play of institutional and community involvement in countering violent extremism in Kosovo. link >
  • The New Lure Of The Syrian War - The Foreign Fighters’ Bosnian Contingent. link >
  • Salafism Vs. Moderate Islam - A Rhetorical Fight for the Hearts and Minds of Bosnian Muslims. link >
  • Assessment of Macedonia’s Efforts on Countering Violent Extremism, view from civil society. link >