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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.

The EU continues to be the biggest donor, investor and trading partner in the Western Balkans. Under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, the EU financially assists the region in narrowing the gaps with the EU Single Market, while supporting good neighbourly relations through regional cooperation and integration efforts.

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 July 2022, the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia were launched. Furthermore, Bosnia and Herzegovina was granted EU candidate status in December 2022, making it the fifth country in the region to be formally integrated into the EU enlargement process. Kosovo* still has the status of a potential EU candidate after having officially applied for EU membership in December 2022.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 (1999) and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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  • 19December 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.

  • 07April 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.

  • 08November 2004

    This seminar drew together experts to analyse and debate ‘failing states’ – long a matter of concern to policy-makers in the field of economic development, but now high on the international security agenda.

  • 02July 2004

    The EUISS Balkans Task Force met in Paris on 2 July, 2004 to discuss the domestic constraints and possibilities in Serbia and Kosovo, and evaluate the state of play in EU policy towards the region.

  • 01March 2004

    The ninth meeting of the Institute’s Task Force on the Balkans convened on 1 March 2004 to debate the recent elections in Croatia and Serbia. The key questions were the reasons why voters had turned to nationalist and, in the Serbian case, extremist parties, and what could be expected from the new governments.

  • 01September 2003

    With the current 'big bang' enlargement nearing its conclusion, it has become crucial to assess if and to what extent the European Union can and will widen further. The ISS devoted a seminar to this issue, with participants from both current and future member states.

  • 07March 2003

    The 8th meeting of the Institute’s Task Force on South-Eastern Europe was held on 7 March 2003 in Paris. Attended by a number of European and American officials and experts, this session assessed the convergences and divergences between EU and US policy in the Western Balkans today and the next imperatives of the international community’s agenda for the region.

  • 08February 2002

    The sixth meeting of the Institute’s task force on South-Eastern Europe took place in Paris on 8 February and addressed the so-called ‘Albanian Question’ with a number of prominent experts from the region as well as European policymakers.

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