The Regional Cooperation Prospects of the Western Balkans: Can the EU’s Pre-Accession Conditionality Work Again?

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Julija Brsakoska Bazerkoska, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia


    After the enlargement with Central and Eastern European countries in 2004 and 2007, the enlargement of the EU lost its position of a central EU external policy. This has significantly affected the accession process of Western Balkan countries, placing them in a rather different enlargement context. Further affecting their accession is the fact that the Western Balkans region was overwhelmed with war legacies and political climate that enabled flourishing of organized crime, corruption and illegal migration. The Union first had to start a process that will primarily contribute towards the stabilization of the region, and then to associate the countries. This paper argues that the EU upgraded its conditionality policy for the Western Balkan countries after its experience with the previous accessions. This is mainly due to the fact that five years after the accession, the Commission’s reports under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism in Bulgaria and Romania on progress with judicial reform, the fight against corruption and, concerning Bulgaria, the fight against organized crime do not notice significant improvements in these countries. Moreover, the Accession Treaty for the new Member State as of 1st July 2013 – Croatia provides for a monitoring mechanism that will continue to monitor closely fulfillment of the commitments. Therefore, the paper analyses the EU conditionality in the Balkans as a multi-dimensional instrument that is directed towards reconciliation, reconstruction and reform. As the Union uses both regional and country-by-country strategies for the Western Balkans countries, the paper aims to propose how and what kinds of strengthened regional co-operation in the areas of justice, freedom and security can contribute to fostering their EU integration. The main aim of the regional strategy is to improve regional co-operation through contractual relationships between these countries in the fields of border management, visa policy, migration issues, and organized crime.