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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. The prospect of EU membership remains open to the official candidate countries (Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), as well as to the potential candidates: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

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    31 January 2008

    The 2008 Serbian Elections have provoked much coverage and analysis, most of it presenting the election issue as one of a choice between the EU and Russia. The somewhat oversimplified representation of the elections has reduced the political complexities involved to ‘integration’ versus ‘isolation’. The majority win in the first round for the SRS candidate Nikolic has been interpreted by some as Serbia’s choice of nationalism over democracy, as represented by the DS candidate Tadic.

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    01 October 2007

    Over the last ten years, the EU Special Representatives (EUSRs) have pioneered EU foreign policy in countries and regions of direct interest to the Union. EUSRs are a face of the Union, enhancing its visibility, and they give it a voice, seeking to deliver a single message to local and international partners, playing an important role in EU foreign policy.

  • 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.

  • 01 July 2007

    In 2000 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325, Women, Peace and Security, which calls for ‘gender mainstreaming’. International organisations, governments and national militaries have become increasingly aware of the unintended gendered side-effects of peacekeeping operations.

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    01 July 2007

    Regional cooperation in the Western Balkans is an issue that has been much discussed. The countries of the region are today much more closely connected through various cooperation schemes than they were seven years ago. This is a success that should not be underestimated. Today the Western Balkans is an emerging region in transition, where economic development is underway and in which cooperation is increasingly seen as an obvious choice, rather than a last-resort option.

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    01 July 2007
    By

    At dawn on 23 June, after close to 36 hours of intensive talks, EU leaders adopted a mandate for a Reform Treaty. In the field of foreign and security policy, the text foresees the EU should have, as of 2009, a High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy. He will be supported by a European external action service. Another important innovation is the permanent structured co-operation in the field of defence.

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    01 May 2007

    In 2000 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325, Women, Peace and Security, which calls for ‘gender mainstreaming’. International organisations, governments and national militaries have become increasingly aware of the unintended gendered side-effects of peacekeeping operations, including incidents of prostitution, trafficking in women and the exploitation of local women and men in post-conflict societies.

  • 01 April 2007

    After several months of predictably fruitless ‘negotiations’ between Serbia and the Kosovar AlbaniansMartti Ahtisaari, the UN Special Envoy for Kosovo, released the text of his proposed solution for the future status of the province. It is now expected that the UN Security Council will consider the proposal and take action in April. However, much uncertainty surrounds the next steps.

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    01 February 2007

    The Dayton Peace Agreement on Bosnia successfully ended the war in late 1995. However, the price for peace was an extremely weak and dysfunctional postwar state that would probably not have survived without substantial international support over the following decade.

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    01 January 2007
    By

    The EU military operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo has come to an end, on schedule, as the presidential election process came to its own successful conclusion. For the first time in decades, this major African country, as large as the entire EU-25, and so crucial for the stability of the Great Lakes region and of Africa as a whole, has elected its president democratically.

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  • 01 May 2006

    I was in Montenegro 20-24 May over the referendum period, and in Belgrade 24-27 May to gauge reactions to the result there. The following note presents my reflections on the significance of the referendum for EU Balkans policy; on the prospects for independent Montenegro; and reactions in Belgrade.

  • 01 March 2006

    Dos acontecimientos marcarán la vida de los Balcanes en lo que queda de año. Primero, un referéndum previsto hacia los meses de mayo o junio en Montenegro, el territorio de Serbia y Montenegro que da al Mar Adriático, sobre una posible independencia, y la continuación de las negociaciones sobre el estatuto final de Kosovo. Las partes implicadas (las autoridades de Belgrado, Podgorica y Pristina) deberían ejercer la máxima contención para evitar que esos procesos degeneren en violencia.

  • 01 January 2006

    Negotiations on Kosovo's 'future status' are widely predicted to result in a transition to independence under international supervision. Meanwhile, Montenegro's government is preparing a referendum on independence in late spring. Many ask why the EU should tolerate further fragmentation that seems at odds with recent encouraging signs that the region is now ready to move forward to EU integration.

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    01 January 2006

    Quand on aime, on ne compte pas, dit la sagesse populaire. A contrario donc, les batailles sévères entre Etats membres sur l’avenir du budget européen en disent long sur la double crise de confiance et de solidarité que traverse l’Union depuis plus de six mois. Au point que l’on peut se demander si ce sont bien les « non » français et néerlandais au référendum sur la Constitution qui ont déclenché la crise, ou s’ils n’ont été finalement que les déclencheurs ou les révélateurs d’une rupture plus profonde depuis longtemps présente dans la dynamique européenne.

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    01 December 2005
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    Historically speaking, security and defence are late arrivals on the European agenda. But like all young things, the European security and defence policy is growing fast. We have put in place the necessary decision-making structures and launched a process to enhance European capabilities, which has been given fresh impetus with the creation of the European Defence Agency.

  • 01 August 2005

    Five years after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, it is still not clear where Serbia is heading. Indeed, it is not yet clear what, or even where Serbia is. Serbia’s borders and statehood remain open questions: the future status of Kosovo is unresolved and the survival of the State Union with Montenegro in doubt. As long as Serbia does not know what and where it is, its progress towards EU integration will be impeded.

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    01 October 2004

    The countries of the Western Balkans are moving on: from postwar reconstruction and stabilisation to consolidating democratic states, implementing economic reform, and preparing for EU accession. The EU has confirmed that ‘The future of the Balkans is within the European Union’, and all the states of the region now share that vision. Much can be learned from the Central and East European experiences of transition and integration, and the EU itself is better prepared than it was in the early 1990s.

  • 01 April 2004

    Parliamentary elections in Croatia and Serbia in late 2003 brought the question of nationalism in the Balkans back onto the agenda. In Croatia, former President Franjo Tudjman's party, the HDZ, returned to power, while in Serbia, the Radical Party led by war crimes indictee Vojislav Seselj won the largest share of the vote.

  • 02 November 2003

    Twelve meetings/interviews lasting 1-1 ½ hours were conducted over four days with independent political analysts, expert advisers to the Serbian government, and a Deputy Prime Minister. The research visit took place immediately before Serbia's third unsuccessful attempt to elect a President on 16 November.

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    01 January 2003

    Depuis 1999, l’Union européenne (UE) développe sa capacité globale (militaire et non militaire) de gestion des crises dans le cadre de la Politique européenne de Sécurité et de Défense (PESD). La « déclaration d’opérationnalité de la PESD », adoptée lors du Conseil de Laeken, constitue un pas important de ce développement.

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