What the elections mean for Serbian democracy

When Aleksandar Vučić gave his victory speech on Sunday, after the resounding victory of his Progressive Party, his seriousness seemed in no proportion to his success. For the first time, since the second multi-party elections in 1992, can a single party govern the country alone. With 48.34% of the vote and 156 (of 250) seats in parliament, the party does not require a coalition partner, unless it wants a majority to the change the constitution.  There are dangers in this victory, both for the victor and for the Serbian democracy. First, Vučić and his party might have won a Pyrrhic...

Serbia’s new old master

With all eyes on the referendum in Crimea, few fellow political buffs outside the Balkans have taken note of the general elections held in Serbia last Sunday. For good or for ill, Belgrade is not the epicentre of European politics that it was two decades ago. By the standards of days gone by, the snap polls called at the behest of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), the largest faction in the outgoing parliament, were a rather dull affair. They largely fulfilled the SNS objective: SNS secured a...

Reinventing Competitiveness

During the past few years, the European Commission initiated numerous programs with the goal of successfully reforming the legal and institutional framework related to competitiveness in the Western Balkan region. These changes have often been counter-effective in certain areas, which has been negative on the overall business environment, for instance unpredictability, legal uncertainty, increased regulatory risk, and a number of other issues resulted in higher costs of conducting business. Such a situation is, inter alia, a consequence of the weak use of analysis in the process of...

Reconciliation and European Integration

Efforts to come to terms with the conflicts of the 1990s and achieve genuine reconciliation are progressing extremely slowly in the Western Balkans. Compared to other post-conflict situations – such as the post-WWII period - the record is, frankly, disappointing. At the same time, however, relations among the Western Balkan countries have become considerably more normal on the economic, cultural and societal levels. This also represents an important part of the healing process. Progress towards EU enlargement can not only be a powerful force for promoting this normalization, but...

"Just Do It" ... ?

When it comes to the western Balkans and European integration, certain metaphors come in and out fashion. It used to be said that Balkan countries were like cyclists; they had to keep moving forward, otherwise if they stopped, they would fall off. This went out of fashion when it was realised that actually, if a country stopped, it did not just halt, it went backwards, and you cannot cycle backwards.

You can’t really sail backwards either, but never mind. After bikes, came yachts, as in the Regatta Principle. Now this is going out of fashion too. Maybe this is because, when...

Thorny Path to the EU Membership

Integrating the countries of the Western Balkans into the European Union (EU) has become the priority of the European Enlargement policy. The EU’s commitment towards a European future for these states has been maintained since the Thessaloniki summit in 2003. This particular milestone paved the way for an EU accession, and granted all Western Balkans countries the possibility of gaining potential candidate status.

The accession of Croatia last year showed that the EU kept its promise to integrate the Southeast European countries, even in difficult economic and...

Forgetting Enlargement

Not long ago, the DG for Enlargement moved to a new address, from 200 to 15, Rue de la Loi, Brussels. What seems like a question of logistics, not policy, matters. Never in the past twenty years has enlargement fallen to such a low priority for the European Union. The old address of the Directorate General for Enlargement was the Berlaymont, the centre of the Commission—symbolizing the centrality and importance of the enlargement process for the EU. Now, it is housed in a non-descript office building a few hundred meters away. This symbolic removal from the center of EU and the Commission’...

Lack of Clarity and Credibility in the EU Rule of Law Conditionality

Over the past fourteen years, EU policy makers have placed a growing emphasis on the rule of law and particularly the reform of the judiciary in the transition countries of the Western Balkans (WB) region. The EU’s strategy of promoting rule of law in the WB relies on the demand to comply with certain political criteria, in combination with the supply of institutional ties, technical, and economic assistance. The accession process generates unique, broad-based, and long-term support for the establishment of the rule of law in the candidate states. The most visible instrument for the...

A wake-up call for a new and more democratic Bosnia

Nobody expected the massive outburst of violence on Bosnian streets two weeks ago. However, given the disastrous economic and social situation in the country, huge unemployment (up to 70% of the Bosnian youth face unemployment) and exploding poverty rates, massive social protests were only a matter of time. Bosnia has been in a permanent crisis since the elections in 2006. The complex Dayton structure, based on the ethnic principle and division, has created a Frankenstein-country dominated by ethno-political elites. For almost two decades, ethno-political elites have invested their energy...

EU scrutiny and rule of law priorities in Albania

On December 2013, the Council of the European Union decided to decline Commission’s recommendation to grant Albania candidate country status. The decision is left pending on country’s “continued implementation of anti-corruption and judicial reform strategies”, which will be re-assessed in June 2014. In a way, Council’s decision is nothing new. Since its application for membership in April 2009, Albania has collected a rather unique three-year saga of refusals from the EU --an...

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