The millennia-long economic ties between the Balkans and Asia

The economic relations between the Balkans and Asia begin with the dawn of civilization itself, when during the process of Neolitization, about 8000 years ago, agriculture, pottery, and city-living crossed the Aegean Sea from the Middle East into the Balkans and gradually spread across Europe.

The economic ties between Western Asia and Europe through the Balkans continued to flourish in the millennia to come. On the one side, Asia offered exquisite craftsmanship and luxurious items – gold jewelry, metal vessels, intricate glasswork, delicious spices, delightful perfumes, and vivid pigment. On the other hand, Europe offered raw materials, ores, timber, amber, and furs.

One of the most inspiring stories of overseas voyages and trade is that of the Phoenicians from the Levant, who during early antiquity traveled all along the Mediterranean, founding cities and trade emporia, and even reaching faraway Britain.

In the first centuries of the Common Era, traders from Qin or nowadays China established the famous Silk Road and exported the soft and smooth textile to Daqin i.e. the Great Qin, or, as we know it, the Roman Empire. In return, Chinese traders brought high-quality Roman ceramics and glasswork. Eventually, the silkworm was brought to the Byzantine Empire, the successors of Rome, which ruled over Asia Minor and the Balkans.

In the centuries to follow, the Silk Road became the most important trade route up to the Renaissance. Caravans traversing the route connected various peoples and countries from both Asia and Europe, bringing to them exotic goods from distant and unknown lands.

The Age of Exploration brought new opportunities for the traders of European states, which perilously sought and found the sea routes to the lands of India and the Far East, tapping into the already developed network of trade ports in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

Several centuries forward, Asia today is the world’s biggest economic powerhouse, with countries such as China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore offering great opportunities for economic collaboration for Europe and the developing countries of the Balkans.

At this year’s “Balkans to Asia” conference, our speakers will offer insight into the prospects of new economic opportunities and sustainable value chains between the Balkans and Asia, at the same time addressing the challenges for cooperation under emerging world realities and strategizing pathways for future Balkan – Asian business ties.