Western Balkans and the European Union: Political Ties Lagging Behind Economic Ones
Despite regional conflicts, the 2007-08 financial crisis, and the 2009-11 eurozone crisis, Western Balkans countries have developed a close economic proximity with the European Union via a number of regional and bilateral agreements. However, due to institutional, economic, and diplomatic obstacles, accession to the EU will be a long process. At the same time, due to the region’s strategic importance and with the reinforcement of membership conditions, accession (or a pre-accession status) is likely to happen – especially as membership would divert the region from other interested parties (Russia, China).
The severe ethno-nationalist conflicts in the Western Balkans (WB) began in 1991, accompanying the breakup of Yugoslavia, and only ended in 1999, following the intervention of the forces of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and with the promise of accession to the European Union (EU). The same year, the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe (replaced in 2008 by the Regional Cooperation Council) was adopted by the WB countries, as well as by Moldova, with support from the EU, the United States, and other international organisations.