Tim Judah coined the term "Yugosphere" in an article for The Economist. It encapsulated some of the dynamics he had seen developing in the former Yugoslavia. The idea of the Yugosphere bores is here to stay; if anything, the idea is more necessary than ever.

The Yugosphere was simply a way of describing the renewal of thousands of broken bonds across the former state. (Kosovo is a partial exception, for obvious reasons.) It does not mean that the state of Yugoslavia is coming back. Although it is a beneficial development, it is not irreversible.

To a great extent the Yugosphere is an economic and social phenomenon but the idea also has political application. Think of the Benelux countries, which once worked together intensely before much of their co-operation was made redundant by the European Union. Some may think that the dysfunctions of the former Yugoslavia will make co-operation impossible. Fair enough. But here is a cold observation, intended not to offend but to put things in perspective. Imagine Europe as a city. The region of the former Yugoslavia is a poor but peripheral suburb, with some nice streets and others controlled by gangsters, whether real or dressed up as politicians. The city as a whole is in trouble. The richer districts are furious with the spendthrifts from the municipality of Greece. There are migrants from poorer cities like Tunisia and Afghanistan sleeping in the park and demanding money. Europe has two options. It can mobilise its natural and comparative advantages, such as common culture, history, markets and so on. Or it can wither, watch its population age and its best and brightest flee to places with brighter prospects. The same applies, on a smaller scale, to the former Yugoslavia.

Call it the Yugosphere, call it the “region”, the “zone”, the Adriatic or whatever. No one outside the area cares. In fact, given everything else that is going on in the world few people outside the Balkans care about the region at all. Look at the Yugosphere. Disastrous demographics, low productivity, comparatively poor infrastructure, suffering from a long-term decline in education standards. And a combined population barely the size of Shanghai. In a world like this more co-operation is surely in everyone's interests.