Talk of armed conflict is clearly an exaggeration, but the refugee and migrant crisis is testing Europe’s borderlands and values

Is Europe’s old flashpoint, the Balkans, rearing its head as a worry once again? A recent statement by Angela Merkel may have deserved more attention than it got. Speaking to some of her party members, the chancellor warned that if Germany closed its border with Austria, the outcome might be an escalation of already rising tensions in the Balkans. “I don’t want to see military conflicts becoming necessary,” she said.

With the approach of winter and the continuing inflow of refugees and migrants, Europe’s south-eastern flank will certainly be the place to watch in the coming weeks and months. But are we really talking about the outbreak of war? Merkel has been under sustained political pressure for opening the door to refugees two months ago. She has been trying hard to convince her domestic constituency, especially in Bavaria, that her policies are sound.

Related: Still the refugees are coming, but in Europe the barriers are rising

Even if only two western Balkan states are EU members, the whole region should be included in European discussions

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