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...

Leave us the worst and dullest!

The “global cold war for talent” is at its peak. Developed countries are introducing innovative developments to attract “the best and the brightest” from around the world, while developing countries are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of human capital for their development, and are putting in efforts to retain their most educated citizens within the country’s boundaries. Unfortunately, the countries of the Western Balkans, not surprisingly, behave as if they are not aware of the worldwide race for talent, and put almost no effort into either retaining their highly skilled...

Challenges of Minority Rights in the Western Balkans

Last November, the Council of Europe marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) – still the only legally binding document on minority protection in the contemporary international community, and still a document that is persistently ignored by eight (of the 47) member states of the Council of Europe. This past anniversary provided an opportunity for some reflections on the FCNM, its achievements, and challenges that remain in...

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