EU Integrations

What the EU Enlargement Strategy should include and why

In recent weeks, the EU integration of the Western Balkan six (WB6) countries seems to have picked up pace. Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) have now entered into force for all WB countries. While Montenegro and Serbia continue their accession negotiations, Albania awaits the opening of its first negotiating chapters conditioned by a convincing track record in the implementation of judicial reform, while Macedonia must first implement the Urgent Reform Priorities and the Pržino Agreement. The recent change in government in Macedonia and Montenegro’s long-awaited admission to...

Macedonia's EU accession: what would a restart entail?

In his last State of the Union address, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reminded us of the obvious: that there would be no enlargement during the mandate of this Commission. He also underlined that the credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans must be maintained if the EU wants more stability in its neighborhood. On the following day, Commissioner Hahn in Belgrade launched a strategic partnership between the Commission and Serbia, a candidate country. At both of these occasions, a new strategy for enlargement for the Western Balkans was...

What’s another year? The European Union and the Western Balkans 2017

Johnny Logan from Ireland won the Eurovision Song Contest 1980 with the song “What`s another year?”. Also in April 1980, the European Community and Yugoslavia signed their first comprehensive Cooperation Agreement. The Commission news release noted that “the primary objective of the Agreement is to improve the balance in the EC-Yugoslav trade which produced an adverse balance to for the latter country of $3.5 billion in 1979.” 37 years on, many more agreements were signed with the Western Balkans, yet balanced economic relations remain illusory. From 2006 to 2016 the six Western Balkans...

The Western Balkans Summit in Trieste and Bilateral Disputes

This year’s Western Balkans Summit in Trieste will be the fourth consecutive meeting of the heads of governments and Foreign Ministers of the six countries, aiming to build on the achievements of the previous meetings and take their commitments a step further. The Summits are organised under the framework of the ‘Berlin Process’, a five-year initiative inaugurated by Chancellor Merkel in 2014 to reinforce the commitment to EU-enlargement for the Western Balkan countries (WB6) by revitalising the bilateral and multilateral ties between them and participating EU member states. For the...

End Roaming Charges in EU Candidate Countries: Bring People Closer

As of yesterday, 15 June 2017, roaming charges in the European Union no longer apply. The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat (on behalf of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union), and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker issued a triumphant joint statement, saying that the European Union is about bringing people together and making their lives easier

The theme of bringing people...

‘Berlin Plus’ will not change the game

On 31 May 2017 the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, announced a “Berlin plus” agenda at a conference of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Western Balkans organised by the Aspen Institute in Berlin. The conference took place against the background of a number of political developments in the Western Balkan countries which seem to threaten the carefully crafted stability paradigm in the region. Political conflict was rife both inside and outside the political institutions. Following a visit to the region by the US Under-Secretary of State Brian Hoyt Yee and the...

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...

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