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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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  • 10November 2010

    The third annual EU-Washington Forum, held on 8-9 November 2010 in Washington DC, addressed the challenge of strengthening the EU-US relationship post Lisbon and explored options for reinvigorating the common agenda.

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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.

  • 13July 2010

    This first seminar in the 'Unfinished business in Europe' series focused on the Western Balkans and Turkey with a particular emphasis on securing and stablising Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia.

  • 19May 2010

    With the objective of comparing the state of play in each of the former Yugoslav countries in relation to the process of European enlargement and to encourage a more effective international engagement in the promotion of integration of the Balkans, the Institute organised, with the support of the Foreign Policy Initiative BiH, a seminar which was held in Sarajevo from 19 to 21 May 2010.

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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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  • 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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    01July 2007

    Regional cooperation in the Western Balkans is an issue that has been much discussed. The countries of the region are today much more closely connected through various cooperation schemes than they were seven years ago. This is a success that should not be underestimated. Today the Western Balkans is an emerging region in transition, where economic development is underway and in which cooperation is increasingly seen as an obvious choice, rather than a last-resort option.

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    01July 2007
    By

    At dawn on 23 June, after close to 36 hours of intensive talks, EU leaders adopted a mandate for a Reform Treaty. In the field of foreign and security policy, the text foresees the EU should have, as of 2009, a High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy. He will be supported by a European external action service. Another important innovation is the permanent structured co-operation in the field of defence.

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    01May 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, including incidents of prostitution, trafficking in women and the exploitation of local women and men in post-conflict societies.

  • 01April 2007

    After several months of predictably fruitless ‘negotiations’ between Serbia and the Kosovar AlbaniansMartti Ahtisaari, the UN Special Envoy for Kosovo, released the text of his proposed solution for the future status of the province. It is now expected that the UN Security Council will consider the proposal and take action in April. However, much uncertainty surrounds the next steps.

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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
    By

    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.

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