AS Scotland unwillingly prepares itself to be pulled out of the European Union on March 29, in the south-eastern corner of Europe many former Yugoslav republics seek to make the reverse journey.

After his speech at Chatham House last July, a journalist asked the Macedonian foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov, why his country was so keen to join the EU just at the moment when his hosts in the United Kingdom were intent on leaving. “For people on the inside, perhaps it’s easy to forget how cold it is outside,” came the reply.

Of the seven former Yugoslav republics, two have already progressed into the EU: Slovenia as part of the Central and Eastern European enlargement in 2004, and Croatia as the 28th member in 2013.

All remaining republics have begun accession talks and are at varying stages of the process; Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia have all made significant progress in the last few years, whilst Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo have a much longer way still to go.

I first began writing and thinking about art from the former Yugoslavia around 15 years ago. I was frustrated and puzzled by the lack of information on art in English from the western Balkan region, knowing how rich and compelling it had been throughout history.

Whereas Scotland has quite a well-founded and supported cultural sector, cultural infrastructure in both Bosnia and Macedonia have degraded almost entirely since the break up of Yugoslavia in 1991.

In one sense, the possibility of EU accession opens up market places that have been very difficult for artists in these countries to access.

The broad themes that artists from Bosnia and Macedonia consider will be familiar to many involved in the arts in Scotland.

In his remarkable 2013 painted mural Where is this Ship Sailing To?, the Macedonian artist Gjorgje Jovanovik lampoons some well-known figures from the previous nationalist government, portraying them in a faux-ancient trireme, sailing around in circles.

This painting displayed a disconnect with and comical failings of the previous local political elite, a gap between people and politics that has become familiar all over the territory of the European Union in the last few years.

Similar frustrations with the shrunken and fragmentary nature of post-Yugoslav neoliberalism can be found in the work of Mladen Miljanovic, a video and performance artist from Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

European integration offers Bosnia the best hope to move beyond the prominence of ethnicity in the constitution, but these aspirations are often blunted by a determination from local elites to maintain their grip on power.

While Bosnia tries to make some progress towards European integration, Macedonia, in contrast, is being held up as a rare success story for Euro-Atlanticist statecraft.

The fall of former strongman Nikola Gruevski in 2016, and his subsequent exile in Budapest to avoid a two-year jail sentence for misuse of government funds, led to a new social democrat led government under Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

The Zaev administration seems determined to steer a path of regional reconciliation and stability, and integration with international institutions long denied to his country by Greek objections to the use of the name Macedonia.

For many Greeks, the name implies a claim to the part of Greece around Thessaloniki – Aegean Macedonia.

This problem that has hobbled Macedonian ambition to join the EU and Nato, until the summer of 2018 and the signing of the much-praised Prespa agreement.

Put simply, in return for Macedonia agreeing to be re-named officially North Macedonia, Greece has relented its opposition to Macedonia working towards EU and Nato membership.

The final step of the process is a close vote in the Greek parliament.

Amongst the issues of concern in Macedonia during this period is the need to arrest an alarming decline in the country’s population, by providing better working conditions and more opportunities for employment, as well as a more structured and re-vivified trade union movement.

An inspiring example can be found in the socially engaged project of the artist Filip Jovanovski and the curator Ivana Vaseva, who together founded a cultural centre in the southern textile town of Stip.

The centre is focused on the textile industry and in helping the workers of the local factories to organise themselves and to argue for better pay and conditions.

Whatever happens next, it is highly likely that contemporary artists in the region will continue to respond in as compelling and wide-ranging a manner.

Jon Blackwood is a reader in contemporary art and leads research at Gray’s School of Art, RGU, Aberdeen. His next exhibition, of the Bosnian video artist Mladen Miljanovic, opens at Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen on February 7.