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    • Integrating the Western Balkans: Completing Future Europe

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    • Date: 04 February 2020

      In light of the current debate on the future of the EU enlargement, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) with other think-tanks and civil society organizations from Serbia specialized in European integration prepared a set of recommendations on how to effectively improve the EU enlargement framework.

      The recommendations are aimed at improving the effectiveness of the EU integration process of Western Balkan countries and reconfirming the sustainable and tangible EU perspective of the region. They are based on experience in monitoring, analysing and participating in the EU accession process of Serbia and other Western Balkan countries.

      The document highlights that it is clear that the EU will not be complete, nor fully integrated, resilient and prosperous without the Western Balkans countries. We have common challenges and it is our joint responsibility to find common solutions. The environmental, climate, energy, migration, security, digital (AI) and geopolitical challenges are of common interest of both WB and EU. They are inextricably linked and inseparably intertwined. Full integration of the Western Balkans into the EU brings more effective and efficient solutions to these challenges and safer and more predictable future for all.

      The policy of EU integration of Western Balkan countries has reached a crossroads. Despite the pledge by the EU member states at the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit that all Western Balkan countries have an EU membership perspective, only Croatia succeeded in joining the Union in 2013. European Commission’s Western Balkans Communication from 2018 once again encouraged WB countries and provided them with a potential EU accession scenario, but it turned out that this perspective was unrealistic. The decision of the European Council in October 2019 not to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia has tarnished EU’s credibility, undermined the trust and put the entire integration perspective on hold.

      The current stalemate in EU accession process has less to do with the enlargement framework than with the lack of political will of both the governments in the region and EU member states. However, the lack of consensus on opening negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and the resulting debate about the enlargement mechanism offer a unique opportunity to assess this process and offer proposals for its improvement. A crisis creates opportunities for change, and it would be a shame to waste a “good crisis” such as this without fundamentally improving the process of EU integration of the Western Balkans.

      The European Commission is expected to present its own proposal for reforming the process in early 2020, which will be discussed and adopted in the coming months by the Member States. Therefore, there is time for the Western Balkans countries to contribute to this debate and offer suggestions and ideas that would significantly improve the process.

      It is not entirely clear whether the expected reform will also apply to countries already involved in EU accession negotiations, Montenegro and Serbia. Having in mind that the lack of implementation of key reforms in these two countries is perhaps the best argument for inadequacy of the current accession mechanism, our proposals are designed for all Western Balkans countries.

      Read the recommendations in full

      These recommendations are submitted by the following think tanks and civil society organizations from Serbia:

      • Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP)
      • Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE)
      • Centre for Contemporary Politics (CSP)
      • European Movement in Serbia (EMINS)
      • European Policy Centre (CEP)
      • International and Security Affairs Centre (ISAC)
      • Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
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