Western Balkan Countries Entry into the EU

Apr 26 2010 - 12:30

Within the next ten years it is expected that the Western Balkan countries will join the European Union. While these countries are relatively small in terms of the geographic area and population and may therefore appear to be of less importance to big brand owners, their imminent EU entry is likely to propel them to the strategic and economic significance enjoyed today by EU countries such as the Czech and Slovak Republics or the Baltic states.

Of the former Yugoslav republics, only Slovenia has joined the EU. Croatia and Macedonia have been candidate countries since 2004 and 2005 respectively. Croatia started its accession negotiations in 2005, is making good progress and is expected to join the EU in 2012; Macedonia’s accession negotiations have not yet begun.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele has recently stated that Croatia is in the process of finalizing its accession negotiations. Further efforts are still needed in the areas of judiciary reform and the fight against corruption. On March 23, 2010, Slovenia’s constitutional court approved the arbitration agreement between Slovenia and Croatia on resolving a border dispute between the two countries that had thwarted Croatia’s negotiations.

Macedonia’s name dispute with Greece over the use of name Macedonia has been a major obstacle in its accession process. Greece has recently expressed willingness to accept the name “Northern Macedonia” in order to resolve the 19-year-long dispute. Since 1991, Greece has been blocking its neighbor’s international recognition. Macedonia had been admitted into the UN in 1993 under the provisional name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The other Western Balkan countries, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo under UN Security Council Resolution 1244/99, are potential candidates but have many issues to overcome on the road to the EU.

Fuele has recently criticized Albania over the lack of progress in normalizing the political situation following a dispute over the results of the last year’s parliamentary elections, which were narrowly won by Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s party.

The low level of regional cooperation, unresolved situation regarding Kosovo’s status and the failure to deliver the Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague are the main reasons why there is no consensus in the EU Council of Ministers regarding Serbia’s candidacy.

Bosnia is making slow progress towards EU membership due to its political and economic problems and Montenegro is experiencing ecological, judicial and crime-related problems that may slow down its accession process.

For more information, please contact Jelena Jankovic at our Balkan Regional Office.

Source: European Commission Enlargement website; Serbian Daily “Blic”; Wikipedia

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