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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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    10December 2015

    Given the radically altered international environment, how can the EU best adapt its border regime? This Brief shows how it will require an innovative response, rather than replicating at an EU level the classical attributes of a national model.

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    04December 2015

    This Brief examines the first use of the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) arrangements in response to the refugee crisis in Europe. How do they work? Can this new instrument foster a real joined-up approach to EU crisis response?

  • 04December 2015

    In cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria and the European Stability Initiative, and with the support of the European Fund for the Balkans, the EU Institute for Security Studies organised an event at the Austrian Foreign Ministry in Vienna on 4th December 2015.

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    04December 2015

    Member states have twice come close to activating the EU’s ‘solidarity clause’, and both cases have involved an internal security crisis with roots outside the Union. But will EU member states only properly support each other if they also feel able to eliminate the root causes overseas?

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    13November 2015

    This Brief demonstrates how the push and pull dynamics with regard to migration have changed dramatically since 2008. What new factors are pushing humans to leave their homes behind? And will the West will now have to adapt its appeals to universalism?

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    12June 2015

    This Chaillot Paper looks at CSDP operations and missions, and explores how they fit into the broader crisis management environment and multilateral efforts towards international peace. It highlights the inherent constraints facing CSDP and how these inevitably limit its overall impact or degree of success. The paper also examines the EU’s added value and the extent to which CSDP is moving forward at various levels.

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    20March 2015

    Two decades after the Dayton Peace Agreement, Bosnian politics remains paralysed. What is Europe doing to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path to EU membership? And what are the major obstacles facing the divided country?

  • 12December 2014

    On 12 December 2014, the EUISS hosted a screening of the fly-on-the-wall documentary film The Agreement.

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    14November 2014

    Despite the EU’s continued commitment to integrating the countries of the Western Balkans, progress is largely stalled for reasons which range from sovereignty and border disputes to electoral deadlock. This Alert provides an overview of the current state of play in a region which is key to the success of the EU’s foreign policy.

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    24July 2014

    Le Conseil de sécurité a tenu en juin dernier un débat sur le maintien de la paix ; le Secrétaire général y a demandé une nouvelle revue de ce qu’il considère comme l’ « activité phare » de l’ONU. Cet Alert replace ces développements dans le contexte élargi de l’après-Srebrenica.

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    22October 2010

    In this quarter's issue of the newsletter, EUISS director Álvaro de Vasconcelos, explores the increasing inter-connection of actors beyond the big powers, F. Stephen Larrabee highlights the work yet to be done by the EU in the Balkans and the Eastern neighbourhood, and Luis Peral considers the EU's responsibility within the International Criminal Court.

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    30August 2010

    On 11 July 2010, Serbian President Boris Tadic attended the fifteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. His attendance at the event comes just three months after the Serbian parliament passed what has been called a ‘landmark’ and a ‘monumental’ declaration on Srebrenica on 1 April 2010.  

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    13July 2010

    In this quarter's issue of the newsletter, EUISS director Álvaro de Vasconcelos writes about Europe's need to continue impressing its brand of multilateral governance. Guest author Srdjan Dizdarevic; suggests that for BiH to move faster towards the EU, civil society is key in pushing the country's politicians for faster reforms. EUISS Senior Research Fellow Giovanni Grevi explores the future of global governance amidst the shifts in power away from the EU and the US and toward emerging countries.

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    24March 2010

    A new storm is brewing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The public order created by the Dayton Agreement to end the conflict and bloodshed of the previous three years is under profound strain. Bart M.J. Szewczyk analyses the Bonn Powers - an integral part of this order - and concludes with some policy recommendations.

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    09November 2009

    On 30 October, three elderly statesmen met to congratulate each other on the role they played in Germany’s reunification: Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush. They all all their own reasons for doing so. The Russian President had ruled out the use of violence to keep the Soviet empire intact. He just let go and, with the fall of the Wall, the most dramatic event which closed the twentieth century, the whole Soviet empire collapsed, and in a domino effect that spread with breathtaking speed the regimes of Eastern European bloc countries were toppled one after another.

  • 19October 2009

    This book breaks new ground by providing the first comprehensive review of every ESDP operation to date. It explains how the EU institutions responsible for international crisis management have developed and functioned, reviews the civil and military resources available to the ESDP, and analyses the key partnerships between the EU and other international organisations.

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    28June 2009

    Over the last ten years since the Zagreb Summit opened the way for Western Balkan countries to approximate to EU standards through the Stabilisation and Association Process, the spirit of regional cooperation seen at the summit has deteriorated.

    While the technical mechanisms for regional cooperation remain through initiatives such as the Regional Cooperation Council, the political dimension has all but faded completely.

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    22June 2009

    The political conditions for opening the path towards EU integration for the countries of the Western Balkans include both full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and regional reconciliation. This paper examines the extent to which this strategy has worked, looking at questions of leadership and political will, as well as the place that EU integration takes on national agendas.

  • 20February 2009

    On 17 February 2009, Kosovo celebrated the first anniversary of its independence. Kosovo’s first year was relatively smooth, and with the exception of a number of violent incidents in the north of the country soon after independence, the much anticipated Serbian nationalist backlash never occurred on the scale many feared.

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    01January 2009
    By

    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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