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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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    28March 2008

    The newest ESDP mission to Kosovo is a display of unity by the European Union, focused on the goal of ensuring stability grounded on the rule of law, including strict respect for minority rights, in the newly-independent state. The EU must achieve its objective while remaining a magnet for Kosovars and at the same time for the Serbs.

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    18February 2008

    The fireworks were spectacular. The giant cake which was served on Mother Teresa street was pretty good and Kosovo’s declaration of independence and subsequent speeches so oozing with goodwill towards the new country’s minority Serbs that one could not but help suspect, as indeed many did, that Kosovo’s leaders had had a little, or in fact quite a lot, of help from their (foreign) friends in drafting them. But now, the deed is done. Kosovo’s Albanians have declared independence and a chapter which began in 1999 has officially been closed.

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    08February 2008

    Is there an ‘Albanian question’? If so, what is it? Is it a traditional ‘national question’, centred on the dream of a ‘Greater Albania’ that would gather in all the Albanian communities in the Balkans? Many outside observers, in particular among the Albanians’ neighbours in the Balkans, see it that way and fear its destabilising consequences, but none of the contributors to this Chaillot Paper finds this scenario convincing.

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    07February 2008

    The reaction in Macedonia to Serbia’s elections – both before and after the victor was known – was one of a general lack of excitement. On one level, Macedonia is so deeply enmeshed in its own domestic political gridlock, similar to Serbia’s, that extraneous events tend to have hardly any obvious impact on the political scene.

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    07February 2008

    By a margin of less than three percent, equalling around 100,000 votes, Boris Tadic won a very tight victory in the Serbian presidential elections last night, but with important consequences for his country and the Western Balkan region. Now that we know who the Serbian voters have chosen, it would be interesting to find out what they thought they were choosing. This is probably the most interesting part of the story, since – in electing the Serbian president for the next five years yesterday – many people were in fact voting for a variety of different things.

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    06February 2008

    As roughly a half of the Serbian electorate and all of the EU hail the electoral victory of the Democratic Party leader Boris Tadic over his bitter rival from the Serbian Radical Party, Tomislav Nikolic, the key question for the analysts is: which Boris Tadic won the elections?

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    31January 2008

    After the first round of the presidential election on 20 January, the prospects for Serbia’s European future look as precarious as they have ever been. Not unexpectedly, the Serbian Radical Party candidate, Tomislav Nikolic, beat incumbent President Boris Tadic by 39.96 per cent to to 35.41 per cent according to the official provisional results, which differ slightly.

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    31January 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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    01October 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.

  • 01July 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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