Characterised by unending transition and constant workforce migration, the economies of the Western Balkans could find balance and become sustainably competitive with green reforms and better attention to welfare and labour rights. Regional cooperation with a strong focus on EU integration could be the right drive for change.
Western Balkans: a rough route to EU integration
This week’s European Council will make crucial decisions concerning EU enlargement. The application of war-torn Ukraine – together with those of Moldova and Georgia – has been in the spotlight, shadowing the Western Balkan countries’ aspirations and raising their legitimate concerns about their long-promised European perspective.
The accession process of the six Western Balkan countries has been stalled for a while, particularly with Albania and North Macedonia waiting to start negotiations, and Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo waiting to be given the official candidate status. While it is time for the European Union to provide a positive and robust sign of its intention to advance the enlargement process, the Western Balkans must continue on their reform path.
This dossier provides a glance at the current state of reform in the region in some crucial areas, namely the economy and rule of law. It also looks at the impact of the war in Ukraine on the international stance of a region that has been itself ravaged by fratricidal war and still carries deep scars. Overall, a situation that urgently calls for inclusion rather than exclusion from the EU.
In its new methodology of the accession process, the EU has defined the rule-of-law as one of its fundamentals simnce 2020, underlining its importance as a core European value. All countries of the Western Balkan, despite reform efforts in the past and present, are struggling with organised crime and corruption, clientelism in their institutions, a weak judiciary and low trust of citizens in the system. The poor condition of the rule of law undermines the public’s trust in the effectiveness of democracy. In the long run, this can have disastrous effects on the democratic consolidation in the Western Balkans.
The war in Ukraine has exposed different views on sanctions against Russia by Serbia, and the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the one side, and other Western Balkan states and entities on the other. The EU should handle the issue cautiously, to avoid further splits and to prevent securitisation of the issue.
Europe in the jaws of history
The Russian aggression against Ukraine with its manifold consequences determined politics and life in Europe in 2022, and it will continue to do so in 2023. From the point of view of country size, Europe’s largest country invaded the second largest one. The effects have been not only European but global. It is primarily the […]
The better part of valour: peace for Ukraine
Not discretion, but clarity is the better part of valour. Ukraine has courageously resisted the imperialist assault on its sovereignty by Russia, whose most important war aim is to reach back to Peter the Great. Russia wants access to warm-water ports, and buffers against invasion to its West and North. Whatever the successes of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, these aims have all been tainted in one way or another.
A rupture that is difficult to mend
While offering candidate status for EU accession to Ukraine was the right decision, stalling the accession of the Western Balkans however was a big strategic mistake – one that will be difficult to mend.