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Western Balkans

The countries of the Western Balkans are geographically surrounded by EU member states, and the EU’s general approach towards the region is characterised by stabilisation through integration.

The conflicts which blighted the region in the 1990s posed an existential challenge to the Common Security and Foreign Policy (CFSP) and in 2003, the EU went beyond its declaratory statements and launched the first ever Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission, EUPM, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and subsequently, the first military operation, Concordia, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Currently, the military operation EUFOR Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Union’s largest mission to date, EULEX, in Kosovo, provide tangible illustrations of the EU’s continued commitment to ensuring peace and stability in the region. Furthermore, the objectives of the Union and the work of the High Representative are also supported by the European Union Special Representatives (EUSRs) in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

On 1 July 2013, Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union. In 2012, Montenegro opened the accession negotiations, followed by Serbia in 2013. In June 2018, the European Council agreed to conditionally open the accession negotiations with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in June 2019. The prospect of EU membership remains open to the potential candidates: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

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    14 June 2017

    This Alert examines recent negative political developments in the Western Balkans, against the backdrop of a worrying drift towards illiberal authoritarianism in countries of the region. It argues that if local political actors do not take tangible steps towards reform to address the ongoing illiberal trends, political instability could re-emerge once again in the region.

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    14 June 2017

    This Brief shows that, in the case of the Western Balkans, improving resilience requires a careful analysis of how the enlargement process can be adapted and improved in order to maintain its transformative power, as well as ensure that reforms are both sustainable and irreversible.

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    14 June 2017

    This Brief focuses on enhancing state resilience in the energy sector across the Western Balkans and shows how a transition to fully transparent and open energy markets is only possible through regulatory and legislative reform and the establishment of a financially attractive environment for investors.

  • 16 February 2017

    This expert workshop sought to identify and analyse the various drivers of fragility in and for the Western Balkans and the kind of responses that may be needed from the EU and/or local actors.

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    15 February 2017

    Four years after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the ‘New Silk Road’ initiative in 2013, the main thrust of the infrastructure projects has been in Asia. However, the Western Balkans is also becoming increasingly involved in related discussions and projects on its western end.

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    10 June 2016

    This Alert seeks to draw attention to the often overlooked problem of Islamic extremist movements in the Balkans. Given the region’s moderate traditions, why are radical Islamist groups now proving so popular?

  • 30 May 2016

    On the 30-31 of May 2016, more than 80 researchers and policy analysts from think tanks and academia met in Paris at the Austrian Embassy and the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).

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    08 March 2016

    A month after Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) submitted its membership application to the EU, this Alert takes a closer look at the CSDP relationship between both partners. The signing of a Framework Participation Agreement in September 2015 is arguably part of a drive to put BiH back on the accession track, while reasserting the role of the EU as a relevant security provider.

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    08 March 2016

    After several years of being largely absent from the agenda, the Western Balkans is back in focus largely due to the refugee crisis. How has this changed the way in which states from the region deal with each other and with the EU?

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    29 January 2016

    With the suspicion that two newly-registered refugees carried out the November Paris attacks, this Alert explores – and debunks – fears that refugee flows from the Middle East have become a backchannel for terrorists entering Europe.

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  • Download document
    15 February 2017

    Four years after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the ‘New Silk Road’ initiative in 2013, the main thrust of the infrastructure projects has been in Asia. However, the Western Balkans is also becoming increasingly involved in related discussions and projects on its western end.

  • Download document
    10 June 2016

    This Alert seeks to draw attention to the often overlooked problem of Islamic extremist movements in the Balkans. Given the region’s moderate traditions, why are radical Islamist groups now proving so popular?

  • Download document
    08 March 2016

    A month after Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) submitted its membership application to the EU, this Alert takes a closer look at the CSDP relationship between both partners. The signing of a Framework Participation Agreement in September 2015 is arguably part of a drive to put BiH back on the accession track, while reasserting the role of the EU as a relevant security provider.

  • Download document
    08 March 2016

    After several years of being largely absent from the agenda, the Western Balkans is back in focus largely due to the refugee crisis. How has this changed the way in which states from the region deal with each other and with the EU?

  • Download document
    29 January 2016

    With the suspicion that two newly-registered refugees carried out the November Paris attacks, this Alert explores – and debunks – fears that refugee flows from the Middle East have become a backchannel for terrorists entering Europe.

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    10 December 2015

    Given the radically altered international environment, how can the EU best adapt its border regime? This Brief shows how it will require an innovative response, rather than replicating at an EU level the classical attributes of a national model.

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    04 December 2015

    This Brief examines the first use of the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) arrangements in response to the refugee crisis in Europe. How do they work? Can this new instrument foster a real joined-up approach to EU crisis response?

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    04 December 2015

    Member states have twice come close to activating the EU’s ‘solidarity clause’, and both cases have involved an internal security crisis with roots outside the Union. But will EU member states only properly support each other if they also feel able to eliminate the root causes overseas?

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    13 November 2015

    This Brief demonstrates how the push and pull dynamics with regard to migration have changed dramatically since 2008. What new factors are pushing humans to leave their homes behind? And will the West will now have to adapt its appeals to universalism?

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    12 June 2015

    This Chaillot Paper looks at CSDP operations and missions, and explores how they fit into the broader crisis management environment and multilateral efforts towards international peace. It highlights the inherent constraints facing CSDP and how these inevitably limit its overall impact or degree of success. The paper also examines the EU’s added value and the extent to which CSDP is moving forward at various levels.

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  • 10 November 2010

    The third annual EU-Washington Forum, held on 8-9 November 2010 in Washington DC, addressed the challenge of strengthening the EU-US relationship post Lisbon and explored options for reinvigorating the common agenda.

  • 13 July 2010

    This first seminar in the 'Unfinished business in Europe' series focused on the Western Balkans and Turkey with a particular emphasis on securing and stablising Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia.

  • 19 May 2010

    With the objective of comparing the state of play in each of the former Yugoslav countries in relation to the process of European enlargement and to encourage a more effective international engagement in the promotion of integration of the Balkans, the Institute organised, with the support of the Foreign Policy Initiative BiH, a seminar which was held in Sarajevo from 19 to 21 May 2010.

  • 17 March 2008

    On 17 March 2008, the Institute hosted a seminar where discussions focused on Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina respectively.

  • 20 July 2007

    The purpose of the seminar was to assess the situation in the region in light of the new government in Serbia, the impasse in the Kosovo status process, and the challenges ahead in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the start of the new OHR/EUSR's mandate.

  • 03 November 2006

    The EUISS organised its first seminar in order to enhance understanding of ESDP in the Western Balkans policy community and to exchange views on the current state of affairs within the EU as regards the constitution and the prospects for future enlargement to the Western Balkans.

  • 30 June 2006

    This Task Force focussed on Montenegro after the independence referendum and relations with Serbia; domestic developments in Serbian politics especially in the light of the possibility of parliamentary elections in the autumn; and the prospects for a viable settlement of Kosovo's 'final status' this year.

  • 13 February 2006

    The key objective of this conference was to take forward work done under the British Presidency on a Security Sector Reform (SSR) strategy for the EU. The Austrian Presidency conference focussed on the specific SSR needs of the Western Balkans, and lessons learned in the region to date.

  • 19 December 2005

    The EUISS held a seminar in order to exchange information on the state of affairs in the countries of the Western Balkans on the eve of Kosovo status negotiations, and to assess the likely impact of the latter on the region.

  • 07 April 2005

    This seminar was organised by the G17 Institute with the assistance of EUISS in Belgrade and sought to introduce Serbian and Montenegrin policy makers, academic experts and journalists to the European Security and Defence Policy and the EU’s Security Strategy.

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