Almost 20 years after the end of the Yugoslav wars the Western Balkan region continues to face serious challenges. Political systems and economies are weak, while nationalist sentiments and poverty are both undermining sustainable solutions to persistent ethno-territorial conflicts. The region is geographically surrounded by the EU and NATO. Western efforts to achieve stability rely essentially on offering membership perspectives to both organisations: Serbia and Montenegro have started formal membership negotiations with the EU, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia are candidate countries, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates. Albania and Montenegro have become NATO members in recent years. However, there has been growing engagement by other international actors in the region, who do not necessarily see eye to eye on many issues with the EU and NATO, or among themselves. This includes Russia, Turkey, the Gulf states, some Islamic militant organisations, as well as China.