EU Integrations

Losing the Western Balkans in Paris

The consequences of the United Kingdom’s imminent exit from the EU following the June 23rd referendum will be felt across the continent but perhaps nowhere more so than the Western Balkans. But the drama of “Brexit,” and with it the resurgence of grand geopolitics in the Balkans, obscures the more quietly devastating headline of the past year. It has been yet another year in southeastern Europe marked by...

Croatia veto on Serbia's EU talks causes surprise

At a meeting in the EU Council on April 7, the Croatian delegate refused to endorse the European Commission’s opinion that Serbia is ready to open talks on Chapter 23 of the accession book, which deals with judiciary and human rights.

According to the EU’s “fundamentals first” enlargement strategy, this is one of the “superchapters” that is crucial to the whole process. Serbia had hoped it would be opened by June, paving the way for other chapters. This is now likely to be delayed. 

Alone among the 28 member states, Croatia cited doubts on Serbia’s...

How the Dutch Referendum Killed EU enlargement

On Wednesday, around 2.5 mio. Dutch voters rejected the EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (61.59% yes, turnout 32.2%). In effect, a small minority of less than 0.5% has become a veto player for an agreement affecting more than half a billion people.

                                                   Photo credit (©) AP...

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...

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...

Kosovo’s SAA: sign of change in relations with EU non-recognizers?

Disagreements over Kosovo used to be among the most flagrant examples of how difficult it is to operate a common EU foreign policy.  Consequently, does Kosovo signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU on 27 October in Strasbourg signal some shift in the respective positions of the five EU members that do not recognize this country's independence? Or does it merely illustrate the fact that Brussels has found a way to go around them?

This blog post looks at the case of Slovakia which, along with Greece, has been the most flexible of...

Kosovo - The Need for an Effective Competition Policy

The implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between Kosovo and the European Union is expected to start in 2016. SAA Article 75 is about Competition and other Economic Provisions. Considering article 75, within a few years, Kosovo is expected to implement effectively competition policy, in line with the EU Acquis and experience.

The effectiveness of competition policy is first of all defined by the actual outcomes of investigation...

Small steps and (not so) great expectations. Notes from the Vienna Summit

The Viennese Hofburg makes for a grand setting for any summit. When Western Balkan governments met with EU officials and representative from some EU member states, most notably Germany and Austria, but also Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, the planned signal was to show that EU enlargement is alive, as is regional cooperation. In comparison to the first such summit last year in Berlin, the Vienna summit comes after a host of regional meetings that some have joked that the prime ministers of the region see each other more often than their own ministers. Regional cooperation has picked up steam...

The end of conditionality in Bosnia-Herzegovina?

At their monthly meeting in Brussels on March 16, the European Union’s foreign ministers are expected to decide that a pre-accession agreement with Bosnia-Herzegovina should take effect. With the stroke of a pen, the foreign ministers will discard the notion that EU conditionality might be used to propel constitutional reform in Bosnia, reversing a policy that has been in force for many years.

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