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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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    01July 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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    01May 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.

  • 01April 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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    01February 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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    01January 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.

  • 03November 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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    01November 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).

  • 01July 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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    01July 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.

  • 30June 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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    01September 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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    01June 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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    01June 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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    01May 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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    01December 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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    01October 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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    01October 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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    01March 1994

    As a member of the first team of research fellows at this Institute, from 1990 to 1993, Nicole Gnesotto made an invaluable contribution to the Institute's work. After leaving the Institute, she kindly agreed to write a paper on developments in former Yugoslavia. We are glad to publish this essay which, in a stimulating and original way, raises a number of important questions on the lessons to be learnt from the developments in former Yugoslavia and Western policy reactions.

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