Beyond civil society: prospects and limits for civil society’s role in EU integration in the Balkans

The relationship between the state and civil society organisations (CSO) is never easy. Even more so in the difficult but presumably transformative process that deprives some elites of power - including state and political actors - and empowers citizens and institutions. The EU integration process is ideally just such a process, and the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey are ‘marathon runners’ - applicants for EU membership. The EU progress reports do not miss the opportunity to emphasize the role of civil society, among many other criteria, in securing democracy...

The untold story behind Bosnia’s EU membership application

More than seven years ago, Bosnia’s neighbors, Montenegro and Serbia, applied for EU membership. Since then, Bosnian politicians have openly considered doing the same on several occasions: first in 2009, and then again in 2010 and 2012. But they never went through with it – until 15 February 2016, when Bosnia finally submitted its...

A Balkan byway to a big land deal

In 1963, the economist Albert O. Hirschman noted that, in Latin America, many believed that progressive change had prerequisites. Reformers tended to insist that progressive change could only be realised by overcoming certain prerequisites, often with foreign donor advice. Revolutionaries had an easy time ridiculing the reformers’ progressive measures, which were “openly and avowedly antagonistic” towards the status quo, arguing that “a basic transformation of existing power relationships is a prerequisite to adopting and enforcing any measure that threatens the interests and privileges of...

Macedonia in 2016: Resolving or reinforcing the political crisis?

On January 15, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn came to Macedonia to seal the deal on the agreement paving the way out of the crisis via early elections in April 2016. However, the main opposition party, SDSM, objected to the elections, expressing doubt that conditions are sufficient for them to be free and fair. On the other hand, the ruling party, VMRO-DPMNE, as well as the two Albanian parties, DUI and DPA, want elections in April. The international community hopes that the implementation of the agreement and elections will bring political stability and predictability in...

The Albanian Thoreau: civil disobedience and the opposition’s anti-government rally

On the 25th anniversary of the student protests which ignited the fall of the communist regime in Albania, the opposition Democratic Party organized an anti-government rally in Tirana, calling for the resignation of the incumbent centre left coalition led by Albanian PM Edi Rama and the establishment of an interim transitional government to prepare snap elections. Some several thousand opposition supporters gathered in front of the government’s building,- a hub for anti-government rallies-, manifesting minor violent conduct resulting in damage of public property which was widely condemned...

CEFTA and the SEE 2020 Strategy: The Importance of Trade Facilitation

Regional trade within CEFTA is still strongly impeded by time-consuming and costly procedures and formalities, especially when crossing the borders that separate member countries. Trade facilitation may help address and reduce these obstacles – specifically, trade facilitation relates to the simplification and standardization of all formalities and procedures at the borders, which is expected to decrease border-crossing costs and, as a result, it should expand further regional trade.

In that context, the South Eastern Europe 2020 Strategy (SEE 2020) provides a...

Asylum seekers in the EU: the road to nowhere

Last weekend two events at the Western Balkans migratory route deepened the acute humanitarian crisis. On Saturday, 28 November Macedonia started building a fence on the border with Greece, causing the outbreak of clashes between border police and  asylum seekers,  resulting, again, in the use of paper spray and rubber bullets.  On Sunday, 29 November, the EU sealed the deal with Turkey on curbing the refugee flows towards Europe. Both events signalize...

Business as EUsual with difficult stYUdents

Only in the 1990s has the European future of what is now known as the Western Balkans been bleaker than nowadays. After the ‘democratizing turn’ in 2000, the year marked by regime changes and political commitments to democracy, open society, free market economy, and European Union (EU) integration, the people living in this southeastern corner of Europe believed that a brighter future was ahead of them. The EU policy-makers dealing with enlargement still had their hands full attempting to prevent inter-ethnic conflicts, mediate...

Should Montenegro be invited to NATO?

Montenegro has experienced an unprecedented wave of protests against the government in recent weeks. Initially focused on the governments bid to join NATO the heavy-handed government response have shifted the focus to the government itself and the dominance of Milo Đukanović over Montenegrin politics for nearly 25 years.

While it is unlikely that the protests will gather the momentum (see here and here) to put the government under real...

Elections in Montenegro - between protests and dialogue

Nine years after the restoration of independence and three years after opening EU accession negotiations, the key debate in Montenegro still  revolves around the organisation of fair and democratic elections.

Twenty five years after its first multiparty elections, Montenegro has not yet experienced a democratic change of its government. To best describe this scenrario the famous Lineker's football quote can be paraphrased to be read as: Elections in Montenegro are the game...

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