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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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  • 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.

  • 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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    01January 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.

  • 19December 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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    01December 2005
    By

    Historically speaking, security and defence are late arrivals on the European agenda. But like all young things, the European security and defence policy is growing fast. We have put in place the necessary decision-making structures and launched a process to enhance European capabilities, which has been given fresh impetus with the creation of the European Defence Agency.

  • 01August 2005

    Five years after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, it is still not clear where Serbia is heading. Indeed, it is not yet clear what, or even where Serbia is. Serbia’s borders and statehood remain open questions: the future status of Kosovo is unresolved and the survival of the State Union with Montenegro in doubt. As long as Serbia does not know what and where it is, its progress towards EU integration will be impeded.

  • 07April 2005

    This seminar was organised by the G17 Institute with the assistance of EUISS in Belgrade and sought to introduce Serbian and Montenegrin policy makers, academic experts and journalists to the European Security and Defence Policy and the EU’s Security Strategy.

  • 08November 2004

    This seminar drew together experts to analyse and debate ‘failing states’ – long a matter of concern to policy-makers in the field of economic development, but now high on the international security agenda.

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    01October 2004

    The countries of the Western Balkans are moving on: from postwar reconstruction and stabilisation to consolidating democratic states, implementing economic reform, and preparing for EU accession. The EU has confirmed that ‘The future of the Balkans is within the European Union’, and all the states of the region now share that vision. Much can be learned from the Central and East European experiences of transition and integration, and the EU itself is better prepared than it was in the early 1990s.

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