24 Mar 2022

Can the war in Ukraine revive the EU’s enlargement agenda for the Western Balkans?

Erwan Fouéré

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For years the EU has been repeating the mantra of its enlargement policy representing ‘a strategic investment in peace, stability and economic growth on our European continent’. Yet it has singularly failed to deliver on its promises towards the Western Balkans region, with a succession of blockages and delays, many of which have more to do with the domestic agendas of individual Member States than with the objective criteria set out for EU accession.

Now with the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine, the world has changed and the international order that has kept war at bay on the European continent for decades has been thrown into question. Ukraine’s application to join the EU as Russian bombs were literally falling on Kyiv has cast an urgent spotlight on the EU’s enlargement policy.

Even if the EU does grant candidate status to Ukraine, as well as Moldova and Georgia, where does this leave the Western Balkans and their long journey towards the EU which began over 20 years ago? What impact will the current crisis have on the EU’s enlargement agenda over the coming months?