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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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    01January 2009
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    EULEX Kosovo is finally up and running after a long planning phase. It began operations on 9 December 2008 and has been breaking new ground for the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) as the EU's largest civilian mission.

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    31December 2008

    This account of the complex negotiation process on the final status of Kosovo analyses how the international community ended up with the very result of independence that it had most wanted to avoid at the outbreak of the crisis. It tracks the process from the initial negotiations in Vienna in 2006 to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008.

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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.

  • 17March 2008

    On 17 March 2008, the Institute hosted a seminar where discussions focused on Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina respectively.

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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

    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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    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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    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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    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.

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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.

  • 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.

  • 01January 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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