Completing the EU Enlargement to the Balkans: Dancing the European Kolo. A step to the side or a step forward?
So far, 2014 has been a year of mixed signals for the European integration of the Western Balkans. Enlargement fatigue was expressed explicitly by incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker when he stated the obvious that there will be no enlargement during his mandate and downgraded the enlargement portfolio in the new Commission. Yet, a high-profile summit of Western Balkan leaders in Berlin in August and the recent German-British initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina signal the renewed engagement of Germany and a number of other key EU member states with the Balkans. So where does enlargement stand at this point, and what are its prospects of pushing the reform agenda in the region forward? The current Policy Brief, prepared by the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), builds on its May 2014 Policy Paper, where different scenarios for the future of the Western Balkans were analysed, coupled with a specific set of recommendations on how to reinvigorate the EU accession process in the region, with particular focus on unresolved bilateral relations and internal political dysfunction in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of this Brief is to consider the latest developments related to the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, namely the election of the new European Commission, the new initiative for the restart of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession, the announcement of new bilateral conditions, and the on-going deterioration of regional cooperation.