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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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    28June 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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    22June 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.

  • 20February 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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    01January 2009
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    EULEX Kosovo is finally up and running after a long planning phase. It began operations on 9 December 2008 and has been breaking new ground for the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) as the EU's largest civilian mission.

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    31December 2008

    This account of the complex negotiation process on the final status of Kosovo analyses how the international community ended up with the very result of independence that it had most wanted to avoid at the outbreak of the crisis. It tracks the process from the initial negotiations in Vienna in 2006 to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008.

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    28March 2008

    The newest ESDP mission to Kosovo is a display of unity by the European Union, focused on the goal of ensuring stability grounded on the rule of law, including strict respect for minority rights, in the newly-independent state. The EU must achieve its objective while remaining a magnet for Kosovars and at the same time for the Serbs.

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    18February 2008

    The fireworks were spectacular. The giant cake which was served on Mother Teresa street was pretty good and Kosovo’s declaration of independence and subsequent speeches so oozing with goodwill towards the new country’s minority Serbs that one could not but help suspect, as indeed many did, that Kosovo’s leaders had had a little, or in fact quite a lot, of help from their (foreign) friends in drafting them. But now, the deed is done. Kosovo’s Albanians have declared independence and a chapter which began in 1999 has officially been closed.

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    08February 2008

    Is there an ‘Albanian question’? If so, what is it? Is it a traditional ‘national question’, centred on the dream of a ‘Greater Albania’ that would gather in all the Albanian communities in the Balkans? Many outside observers, in particular among the Albanians’ neighbours in the Balkans, see it that way and fear its destabilising consequences, but none of the contributors to this Chaillot Paper finds this scenario convincing.

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    07February 2008

    The reaction in Macedonia to Serbia’s elections – both before and after the victor was known – was one of a general lack of excitement. On one level, Macedonia is so deeply enmeshed in its own domestic political gridlock, similar to Serbia’s, that extraneous events tend to have hardly any obvious impact on the political scene.

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    07February 2008

    By a margin of less than three percent, equalling around 100,000 votes, Boris Tadic won a very tight victory in the Serbian presidential elections last night, but with important consequences for his country and the Western Balkan region. Now that we know who the Serbian voters have chosen, it would be interesting to find out what they thought they were choosing. This is probably the most interesting part of the story, since – in electing the Serbian president for the next five years yesterday – many people were in fact voting for a variety of different things.

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