Over the years, Italy has been reiterating its full support for the EU's process of integrating the Western Balkans (WB) at the political and diplomatic levels. The launch of the EU Macro-regional Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) in 2016 is considered to be one of the main achievements of the 2014 Italian presidency of the EU.
In a recent ISPI article, Valbona Zeneli wrote that, despite other big actors at play, the European Union is the only game in town in the Western Balkans (WB). Is it really so? A review of the activities of the three most important non-EU players in the region - Russia, Turkey and China - points us in another direction.
There is one paramount question to be asked after 18 years of EU enlargement efforts in the Western Balkans: What will happen if we don’t see materialize what we want to happen? We wanted to have democratic and prosperous Balkans integrated into the EU at the latest by 2014, but now we find ourselves debating whether the possible entry date of 2025 is not too optimistic.
Corruption is deeply rooted in the Western Balkans. A 2016 survey by SELDI (a southeast European network of think tanks against corruption) shows wide distribution of low-level administrative corruption in all the countries. Albania, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina ‘lead’ the group with 40%, 29% and 28% of the respondents reporting involvement in at least one incident of bribe, gift or favor exchange.
Much has been achieved in the Western Balkans since the end of the Yugoslav Wars, yet much remains to be done. The current hard-won stability is something to rejoice at, but severe causes for concern still abound.
The issue of Macedonian identity is a political minefield which stretches beyond the naming dispute of the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with Greece. The stakes are high in getting it right because its outcome will not only reshape the future of the population 2-million country and the Western Balkans at large, but also the leverage of the EU in the region and its ambition to be the peace project uniting the whole of Europe.
Two years have passed since the refugee deal between the European Union and Turkey that officially closed the so-called "Balkan Route". But in these two years, facts have shown that this route has not been completely closed: it has only changed its directions and has become even more dangerous for migrants who are trying to reach Europe.
Most experts agree that Serbia has a "single-issue", the foreign policy of countersecession following Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. This issue shapes Serbia's official discourse and foreign policy.
In 2015, the Kosovar Parliament passed a law to establish a Special Court in The Hague in order to investigate war crimes perpetrated in Kosovo between January 1998 and December 2000.
The Western Balkans – that is, the countries of former Yugoslavia minus Slovenia and Croatia, plus Albania – are faring relatively better than other regions on the edges of Europe. Unlike their Eastern neighbours, they are on track to become members of the European Union (EU).