Structural weaknesses of the Western Balkan economies

Bleak economic prospects

Until the strong impact of the global economic crisis, the Western Balkan countries registered relatively high growth rates, declining inflation, rapid expansion of foreign trade and increasing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Many important economic reforms, required by the transition to market economy, have also been implemented successfully. Ongoing political, legal and economic reforms, which were sustained by the EU Stabilization and Association Process (SAP), offered Western Balkan countries trade preferences, financial...

How to Reinvigorate the EU Enlargement of the Western Balkans?In search of Scenario E

The EU enlargement policy towards the Western Balkans is increasingly losing its relevance. Some of the local leaderships have entirely abandoned the reform process (notably, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), while an overwhelming majority of the EU members have turned their attention towards other questions. The European societies are growing more and more unenthusiastic about any new rounds of enlargement, and some skeptics have even alluded to the idea of scrapping the DG Enlargement altogether in the next European Commission.

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How to “regulate” politics in Bosnia?

One of the recommendations on a large list of possible actions to re-energize the EU integration process in the Western Balkans, which was presented in a policy paper recently published by the BiEPAG group, is more active engagement on the EU in resolving remaining bilateral disputes in the Western Balkans. In the case of Bosnia, this recommendation could be extended to the internal disputes in the country. Some of the reasons are explained below.

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The EU and the Balkans in Thessaloniki, 11 years later. What went wrong?

In 2003, during the Greek Presidency of the EU Council, the European Union confirmed its project of political integration of the Western Balkans, officially declaring at the Thessaloniki Summit that "the future of the Balkans is within the European Union." It was a time of euro-enthusiasm, between the introduction of the common currency and the upcoming eastern enlargement. The hope was that by 2014, the centenary of the First World War, all the countries of the Western Balkans could achieve the same result.
Eleven years later, the situation is less encouraging. The enlargement...

How Serbia Learned to Stop Worrying About Kosovo and Love the EU

When Serbia embarked on its democratic transition in October 2000, its main obstacles, on the way to liberal democracy, were the remnants of the former authoritarian regime and nationalist political forces coalesced around a strong anti-European discourse.  Serbia’s Europeanization process, until 2008, was slow and deeply contested as a result of deep symbolic divisions, an “identity divergence” vis-a-vis Europe (as Jelena Subotić termed it). When Kosovo declared independence in February 2008, Belgrade fiercely opposed it. Serbia was deeply divided between “pro-European forces,” who...

Is Albania becoming a part of Europe, or just returning to it?

Is Albania becoming a part of Europe, or just returning to it? Does granting candidate status to the country mean a chance, a present or a merit? How do we view the “EU,” as a set of values ​​or a valuable financial source for new member and candidate states? Is this the end of the integration process for Albania, or is it just the beginning of a long course of reforms that would finalize the country’s 24-year long aspirations of EU integration? These are some of the dilemmas and questions that remain unanswered in Tirana, on June 24, 2014 – several hours after the EU decision to grant...

1914: The true "Nullstunde" of Europe

In the self-understanding of the European Union, the history of European integration is linked with the end of World War 2 and post-war reconstruction. May 8, 1945 is considered as Europe’s “Nullstunde” or zero hour. However, the June 28, 1914 is better suited to mark the start of today's European project. But the 28th June is a difficult, more uncomfortable date: If ‘Europe’ started on 8 May 1945, so it can be understood as a story of economic success, political stability and progress. Although by invoking the concept of the EU as a ‘peace project’, one recognizes World War Two and the...

EU’s ‘new approach’, democratization and the problem of stateness in the WB

The current “business as usual” policy of enlargement, or the first scenario of the Balkans in Europe Policy paper, deals with the advantages, and pitfalls, of the EU’s capacities to foster stalling democratization in the Western Balkans.  Any analysis of the potential for enlargement policy turning around the weak record of democratization in the Balkans has to take into account the innovations of the ‘new approach,’  when compared to the previous...

Why Montenegro has decided to stand up to Russia

Two years ago, the former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, saved the day (and helped to resolve an inconclusive discussion at the Chicago summit on this subject) by making a public pledge that the next NATO summit will be about enlargement.  In the meantime, NATO’s open-door policy had slipped down the priority list, and the Ukrainian crisis sparked a fundamental rethinking of European security considerations.

Currently, there is only one real candidate for membership at the September 2014 summit in Wales – Montenegro. As for the other Balkan aspirants,...

EU enlargement – what is its meaning today?

2014 marks an important anniversary: it's been ten years since Western and Eastern Europe were reunited. While the earlier enlargements of the EU were first of all about expanding and consolidating the single market, and anchoring democracy in formerly authoritarian countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece, the enlargement of 2004 was a real watershed in our recent history: it healed an artificial divide and brought back together a continent torn-apart during the cold war.

Today, nationalisms in Europe, prompted by economic uncertainty, would have us all fold back...

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