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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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    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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    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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  • 01April 2004

    Parliamentary elections in Croatia and Serbia in late 2003 brought the question of nationalism in the Balkans back onto the agenda. In Croatia, former President Franjo Tudjman's party, the HDZ, returned to power, while in Serbia, the Radical Party led by war crimes indictee Vojislav Seselj won the largest share of the vote.

  • 02November 2003

    Twelve meetings/interviews lasting 1-1 ½ hours were conducted over four days with independent political analysts, expert advisers to the Serbian government, and a Deputy Prime Minister. The research visit took place immediately before Serbia's third unsuccessful attempt to elect a President on 16 November.

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    01January 2003

    Depuis 1999, l’Union européenne (UE) développe sa capacité globale (militaire et non militaire) de gestion des crises dans le cadre de la Politique européenne de Sécurité et de Défense (PESD). La « déclaration d’opérationnalité de la PESD », adoptée lors du Conseil de Laeken, constitue un pas important de ce développement.

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    01May 2002

    Par la résolution 1 244 du Conseil de Sécurité, pour la première fois dans l’Histoire, les Nations unies se sont vu confier au Kosovo à partir du mois de juin 1999 une mission d’un nouveau type, visant non plus simplement à maintenir la paix mais à la construire, dans toutes ses dimensions, politique, démocratique, administrative, juridique, économique…

  • 20November 2001

    Loin d’en détruire la pertinence et la légitimité, les nouvelles menaces terroristes évidentes depuis le 11 septembre jouent comme autant de facteurs d’accélération pour la mise en œuvre d’une politique européenne de sécurité et de défense (PESD). Les raisons en sont multiples...

  • 01November 2001

    The 17 November elections in Kosovo confirmed the prognosis that Ibrahim Rugova and his LDK would win. Two surprising developments that merit attention are the unexpectedly strong showing by Hashim Thaci and his party and the relatively strong participation by the Serbs

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    01October 2001

    There is no doubt that the terrorist attacks of 11 September against America have drastically changed the international strategic order. It is not yet possible to discern the scale of this revolution, as new developments in the coming weeks may have further profound effects on the international system as a whole.

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    02April 2001

    Once again contradictory dynamics are upsetting the fragile balance in the southern Balkans. On one side is the democratisation of Croatia but above all that of Serbia; on the other, attempts by UCK extremists to destabilise Macedonia. Yesterday’s enemy, Serbia, is becoming today’s partner, whereas yesterday’s partner, the UCK, may become a real adversary in the endeavour to maintain stability in Kosovo and the region as a whole.

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    02March 2001

    The Kosovo crisis marked a turning point in the development of the international system, not because the West was in any way improper in freeing itself from the constraints of realpolitik and UN legitimacy, but because it demonstrated the limits of those constraints.

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    01October 2000

    This paper attempts to evaluate the situation in South-Eastern Europe by focusing on two major sources of economic plight in the region and on the prospects for economic regeneration. One source of difficulties relates to the dissolution of former Yugoslavia. The wars in the region caused enormous pain and suffering that led to the deaths of a large number of people.

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