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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 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.

  • 01 June 2006

    As a close observer of the short and unhappy history of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, I was often reminded of what I learned from watching the Czechs and Slovaks abandon their common state between 1989 and 1993. Although I had worked for several years on ‘Czechoslovak’ politics, I did not expect this federation to fail.

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    01 June 2006

    The operational progress in civilian crisis management made by the EU since 1999 has been impressive and has helped to enhance the EU's reputation as a credible security provider. However, the realisation of EU political objectives related to the strengthening of international security does not depend merely on the improvement of the EU's operational capabilities.

  • 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.

  • 13 February 2006

    The key objective of this conference was to take forward work done under the British Presidency on a Security Sector Reform (SSR) strategy for the EU. The Austrian Presidency conference focussed on the specific SSR needs of the Western Balkans, and lessons learned in the region to date.

  • 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.

  • 19 December 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.

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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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    01 October 2000

    This paper attempts to evaluate the situation in South-Eastern Europe by focusing on two major sources of economic plight in the region and on the prospects for economic regeneration. One source of difficulties relates to the dissolution of former Yugoslavia. The wars in the region caused enormous pain and suffering that led to the deaths of a large number of people.

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    01 September 2000

    The recent developments in Serbia are indicative of a change in the political makeup of the country. The regime is becoming more repressive. A spate of highly publicised assassinations has sparked wider debate about the ability of the regime to maintain order. Many military officials refuse to obey orders or are switching camps, especially in Montenegro.

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    01 June 2000

    The transatlantic defence community drew divergent conclusions from NATO’s Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. Many observers asserted that the operation showed the European allies to be irremediably behind the United States in applying decisive new forms of advanced technology warfare.

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    01 June 2000

    Among the institutions which emerged during the crisis management phase in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, the so-called Balkan Contact Group turned out to be the innovation with the greatest impact on European institutional structures.

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    01 May 1998

    This Chaillot Paper is innovative on more than one count. It is a multi-authored, multinational and centripetal analysis of a very specific issue, the complexity of which deserves a multifaceted, analytical approach of this type. For some, it may even constitute an exercise in political correctness.

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    01 December 1997

    Concerned as they are by the many crises occurring on their very doorstep, the European public, politicians and analysts seem hardly to recognize other conflicts in Europe that have not happened and need not happen. Crisis prevention and peace-building have been sidelined by conflict management and peacekeeping.

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    01 October 1997

    The war in Bosnia has witnessed a broad swing in the moods of the "international community" and of European nations particularly. In the wake of the end of the Cold War and of the victory in the Gulf War, expectations run high at the outbreak that collective security would have been able to deal with regional disturbances.

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    01 October 1994

    The Yugoslav crisis, posing for over three years now a challenge to the crisis-management ability of the international community, it has influenced the restructuring of post-Cold War security relations and has complicated Western Europe's development of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and search for a new role in international affairs.

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