Western Balkans

EU enlargement, the (meagre) results of the Italian EU Council Presidency

On January 13, with the handover to Latvia, the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union has reached its end. And also with regard to EU enlargement policy, the results of the semester remain meagre. The only formal step ahead for the countries of the Western Balkans towards European integration has been the opening of four new chapters of negotiations with Montenegro, in addition to the launch of the Adriatic-Ionian macro-regional strategy. Serbia and Albania, the major countries of the region, are not moving, nor are Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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First „return to Europe“, then to the 1990s

Almost two years after it joined the European Union, Croatia is still in a rather deep economic crisis, which has resulted in high unemployment and continued decrease of the country’s GDP. Although there are some signs of recovery, it will take time before the first positive trends are felt by the general population. At the same time, however, there are no benefits of EU membership that could be easily recognised by the general population. Not many expected a miracle and thus few are disappointed. However, one would expect in these circumstances for political life in the country to be...

The new kid on the block: a short intro to the China-WB relationship

On its way to becoming a global power the influence of China is increasingly being felt worldwide. China not only plays a transformative role in Central Asia, Africa and Latin America but has also caused the American pivot to the Pacific while being Europe’s most significant economic partner amidst the global financial crisis. In the last several years, China  has come in unprecedented ways to the Western Balkans (WB) as well. Miniscule in size and power, the countries in the region have yet to learn about China and contemplate their position in the new global landscape.

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Time for a different approach to enlargement: can accession in the Western Balkans be given a new impulse for change?

The Western Balkans accession process is getting some new energy and commitment these days, but not from the 'usual suspects' responsible for enlargement negotiations and reforms. A group of academics and analysts from the region and further afield in Europe, united in the platform entitled 'Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group' have produced a new policy paper, containing an analysis of the state of...

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...

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...

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...

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...

What Will the European Elections Bring the Western Balkans?

The European elections of 22-25 May 2014 have generated unprecedented media attention inside and outside of the European Union (EU). Despite the fact that the lack of serious election campaigns in most EU countries confirms the enduring ‘second-order’ status of the European elections,’ i.e. secondary in importance to national parliamentary elections, the national and international media attention reflects the EU’s increased role in the lives of people inside and outside of its territory. This relevance is probably nowhere as big as it is in Southeastern Europe, where most countries are in...

A new approach to economic governance and growth in the Western Balkans

In its Enlargement strategy 2013-2014, the European Commission emphasised the need to address fundamentals first. Particular importance has been given to taking a new approach to the economies of the enlargement countries. In light of the global economic crisis, and in particular public dissatisfaction with the general socio-economic situation, as so visibly demonstrated by the recent protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we want to continue to support the Western Balkan countries in meeting the challenges of creating jobs, enhancing competitiveness and boosting growth.

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