25 Feb 2021

Balkan and Eastern European Comparisons

Building a New Momentum for the European integration of the Balkan and Eastern European associated states

Michael Emerson / Steven Blockmans

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CEPS first published in 2018 a comparison of how the Balkan and Eastern European associated states fared in their progressive alignment on EU laws and norms. This attracted considerable attention, notably because the detailed research showed that the two groups of states were becoming increasingly comparable in their alignment on the EU acquis.

A more recent suggestion that this work should be updated and deepened for its policy implications has led to this study. Andrius Kubilius MEP, former Prime Minister of Lithuania, in particular encouraged CEPS to do this, and the authors thank him for his stimulus and support.

Considerable interest is now being expressed in this study advocating a new momentum for the European integration of both Balkan and East European associated states. Both the enlargement and neighbourhood policies are at best stagnating. The perceived incentives for reforms in line with European norms and values are too weak or uncertain. The study proposes enhancing the ‘more for more’ principle with quantification and benchmarking of ratings for all chapters of the relationships with the EU. A major proposed innovation is that in addition to ongoing sectoral and functional integration, the EU should officer partial and progressive institutional integration, conditional on performance in relation to the ratings, as a more constructive approach than the present ‘all or nothing’ method of accession. A short summary of the main ideas is also available here.