The Western Balkans: Reform and future enlargement

The Western Balkans have been the subject of renewed attention in recent months, amid growing concerns that some countries might be vulnerable to Russian or Turkish influence, and that accession to the EU is such a distant prospect that it cannot generate or maintain the momentum for reform. At the same time, enlargement is the EU’s principal means of engaging with the region, which raises questions about its limitations. A proliferation of policy initiatives (notably the Berlin process) suggests that decision-makers have understood the need for new thinking on this issue. At an event on “Reform and the future of enlargement in the Western Balkans” on October 27th, Angelina Eichhorst, Director for Western Europe, Western Balkans and Turkey at the European External Action Service, called for a more streamlined approach to the region by external actors, and more direct outreach to civil society, both in the Balkans and in the EU. Marko Kmezić, from the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz, warned against an approach that places stability above all else, stressing instead that democracy and stability must go hand in hand.