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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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    01 July 2007
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    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
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    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.

  • 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.

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    01 November 2006

    Une fois membre de l’Union, la Roumanie occupera une place particulière au sein d’une Union élargie, entre les deux régions du continent européen qui demeurent les plus fragiles en matière de sécurité – les Balkans occidentaux et la partie européenne de la Communauté des Etats indépendants (CEI)/Nouveaux Etats indépendants (NEI).

  • 01 July 2006

    The Montenegrin referendum of 21 May was a major success for the EU. Skilful, patient and determined deployment of the EU's 'soft power' brought remarkable results: the EU's efforts overcame acute political polarisation among key players and brokered acceptable rules of the game, which stimulated exceptionally high voter turnout on the day.

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    01 July 2006

    This edition of the EUISS newsletter 'ISSues' includes articles about the Iranian constitution, the EU's soft power in the Balkans, and EU dialogue with Iran.

  • 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.

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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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    01 May 2002

    Par la résolution 1 244 du Conseil de Sécurité, pour la première fois dans l’Histoire, les Nations unies se sont vu confier au Kosovo à partir du mois de juin 1999 une mission d’un nouveau type, visant non plus simplement à maintenir la paix mais à la construire, dans toutes ses dimensions, politique, démocratique, administrative, juridique, économique…

  • 20 November 2001

    Loin d’en détruire la pertinence et la légitimité, les nouvelles menaces terroristes évidentes depuis le 11 septembre jouent comme autant de facteurs d’accélération pour la mise en œuvre d’une politique européenne de sécurité et de défense (PESD). Les raisons en sont multiples...

  • 01 November 2001

    The 17 November elections in Kosovo confirmed the prognosis that Ibrahim Rugova and his LDK would win. Two surprising developments that merit attention are the unexpectedly strong showing by Hashim Thaci and his party and the relatively strong participation by the Serbs

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    01 October 2001

    There is no doubt that the terrorist attacks of 11 September against America have drastically changed the international strategic order. It is not yet possible to discern the scale of this revolution, as new developments in the coming weeks may have further profound effects on the international system as a whole.

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    02 April 2001

    Once again contradictory dynamics are upsetting the fragile balance in the southern Balkans. On one side is the democratisation of Croatia but above all that of Serbia; on the other, attempts by UCK extremists to destabilise Macedonia. Yesterday’s enemy, Serbia, is becoming today’s partner, whereas yesterday’s partner, the UCK, may become a real adversary in the endeavour to maintain stability in Kosovo and the region as a whole.

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    02 March 2001

    The Kosovo crisis marked a turning point in the development of the international system, not because the West was in any way improper in freeing itself from the constraints of realpolitik and UN legitimacy, but because it demonstrated the limits of those constraints.

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