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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 November 2014

    Despite the EU’s continued commitment to integrating the countries of the Western Balkans, progress is largely stalled for reasons which range from sovereignty and border disputes to electoral deadlock. This Alert provides an overview of the current state of play in a region which is key to the success of the EU’s foreign policy.

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    24 July 2014

    Le Conseil de sécurité a tenu en juin dernier un débat sur le maintien de la paix ; le Secrétaire général y a demandé une nouvelle revue de ce qu’il considère comme l’ « activité phare » de l’ONU. Cet Alert replace ces développements dans le contexte élargi de l’après-Srebrenica.

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    27 June 2014

    In the week marking the centenary of the assassinations in Sarajevo that triggered the First World War, this Alert looks back at Bosnia’s violent trajectory over the past hundred years and assesses the situation in the country today. From this historical perspective, it examines in particular what lessons the Bosnia experience might hold for the current crisis in Ukraine.

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    13 December 2013

    This alert examines the milestone elections that took place in northern Kosovo earlier this month. With Kosovo’s Serbs now politically engaged, what are the next steps in order to keep both the country – and the region – on the path to EU integration?

  • 09 July 2013

    On Tuesday, 9 July 2013 in Brussels, the EUISS organised, in close cooperation with the European Policy Centre (EPC), a conference to discuss how far the Western Balkans have come in their European ambitions since the Thessaloniki Declaration of 2003. The debate was animated by many high-ranking experts from the EU and the region and the conclusions were made by the first Permanent Representative of Croatia to the EU.

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    21 June 2013

    In June 2003 the EU-Western Balkans summit resulted in the Thessaloniki Declaration, affirming unequivocally that ‘the future of the Balkans is within the European Union’. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the declaration, and on the eve of Croatia’s accession to the EU, this publication assesses the progress that the countries of the Western Balkans have made on the path to European integration in the past decade.

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    29 April 2013

    Quatorze ans après la fin de la guerre, le récent accord du 19 avril normalise pour la première fois les relations entre la Serbie et le Kosovo. Il représente une étape décisive pour les deux parties vers l’intégration européenne et confirme également l’importance de l’action de l’UE dans la région des Balkans occidentaux.

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    28 January 2013

    The launch of the EU Police Mission (EUPM) was for many the first tangible outcome from the EU CFSP. This joint report contributes, through the identification of key lessons and recommendations, to collaborative lessons learning for police reform in BiH, CSDP and the EU’s external action in general.

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    12 July 2012

    As many European governments introduce their biggest defence budget cuts in years, the impact on their collective military capabilities may be lessened by exploiting two directives designed to integrate the EU defence market.

  • 08 June 2012

    This seminar, jointly organised by the EU Police Mission (EUPM) and the EUISS and held in Sarajevo on the 7-8 June, marked 10 years of EU civilian crisis management in the Western Balkans and examined the impact of the EUPM in Bosnia and Herzegovina and lessons learned for the future of CFSP/CSDP.

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    06 June 2011

    Today, more than fifteen years after the end of the wars of Yugoslavia’s dissolution, the ‘Balkan question’ remains more than ever a ‘European question’.

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    22 October 2010

    In this quarter's issue of the newsletter, EUISS director Álvaro de Vasconcelos, explores the increasing inter-connection of actors beyond the big powers, F. Stephen Larrabee highlights the work yet to be done by the EU in the Balkans and the Eastern neighbourhood, and Luis Peral considers the EU's responsibility within the International Criminal Court.

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    30 August 2010

    On 11 July 2010, Serbian President Boris Tadic attended the fifteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. His attendance at the event comes just three months after the Serbian parliament passed what has been called a ‘landmark’ and a ‘monumental’ declaration on Srebrenica on 1 April 2010.  

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    13 July 2010

    In this quarter's issue of the newsletter, EUISS director Álvaro de Vasconcelos writes about Europe's need to continue impressing its brand of multilateral governance. Guest author Srdjan Dizdarevic; suggests that for BiH to move faster towards the EU, civil society is key in pushing the country's politicians for faster reforms. EUISS Senior Research Fellow Giovanni Grevi explores the future of global governance amidst the shifts in power away from the EU and the US and toward emerging countries.

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    24 March 2010

    A new storm is brewing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The public order created by the Dayton Agreement to end the conflict and bloodshed of the previous three years is under profound strain. Bart M.J. Szewczyk analyses the Bonn Powers - an integral part of this order - and concludes with some policy recommendations.

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    09 November 2009

    On 30 October, three elderly statesmen met to congratulate each other on the role they played in Germany’s reunification: Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush. They all all their own reasons for doing so. The Russian President had ruled out the use of violence to keep the Soviet empire intact. He just let go and, with the fall of the Wall, the most dramatic event which closed the twentieth century, the whole Soviet empire collapsed, and in a domino effect that spread with breathtaking speed the regimes of Eastern European bloc countries were toppled one after another.

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    19 October 2009

    This book breaks new ground by providing the first comprehensive review of every ESDP operation to date. It explains how the EU institutions responsible for international crisis management have developed and functioned, reviews the civil and military resources available to the ESDP, and analyses the key partnerships between the EU and other international organisations.

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    28 June 2009

    Over the last ten years since the Zagreb Summit opened the way for Western Balkan countries to approximate to EU standards through the Stabilisation and Association Process, the spirit of regional cooperation seen at the summit has deteriorated.

    While the technical mechanisms for regional cooperation remain through initiatives such as the Regional Cooperation Council, the political dimension has all but faded completely.

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    22 June 2009

    The political conditions for opening the path towards EU integration for the countries of the Western Balkans include both full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and regional reconciliation. This paper examines the extent to which this strategy has worked, looking at questions of leadership and political will, as well as the place that EU integration takes on national agendas.

  • 20 February 2009

    On 17 February 2009, Kosovo celebrated the first anniversary of its independence. Kosovo’s first year was relatively smooth, and with the exception of a number of violent incidents in the north of the country soon after independence, the much anticipated Serbian nationalist backlash never occurred on the scale many feared.

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