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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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  • 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.

  • 01June 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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    01June 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.

  • 01May 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.

  • 01March 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.

  • 13February 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.

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