EU Enlargement and the Western Balkans? Policy Changes and Policy Options from the Perspective of Candidate Countries

  • Abstract:
    This paper discusses how different is the position of the Western Balkan countries in the enlargement process and what are the policy options in the new circumstances from the position of the policy taker, a potential EU member state. We start with the changes in the EU enlargement policy towards the countries covered by the EU Stabilisation and Association process made in 2003 by introducing so-called pre-accession instruments for all the countries of the region regardless of their stage in formal integration leading to, as we argue, a separation of factual integration from formal integration of these countries to the EU, with some important elements, such as pre-accession assistance still being tight up with formal integration steps. We proceed to outline the policy moves made at the national levels as a reaction to the slowing down of the enlargement process, a sort of domestic push to speed up the integration in the form of the National programmes for integration, comprehensive plans for integration to the EU by a set date(s) reflecting the drive for joining the EU. We argue that these two elements in synergy have led to the position of the Western Balkan countries in the enlargement context (and the costs and benefits) being significantly changed, in particular for the laggard countries. Finally, we discuss what could be the policy direction from the perspective of a (potential) candidate country speculating on the national programme for integration being transformed into a genuine instrument of governing the process and how can politisation of the pre-accession policy in the pre-accession countries can contribute to the process of integration to the EU from the demand-side point of view and beyond.