The European Union needs clarity regarding the nature of its relationship with the Western Balkans, the goals it wants to achieve in the mid-future and the level of engagement that those goals would require. Under present conditions, the EU agenda for the Balkans seems to be in a conundrum. The countries in the region are diverging from the EU, both on the political and the socio-economic levels, while the EU and the member states are losing ground and leverage. It is then crucial to progress in the socio-economic field, which would require an annual GDP growth rate of approximately 6 percent in order to activate a process of substantial convergence towards EU standards in all fields. The Trieste summit hence happens at a crossroad; an ambiguous outcome would be a signal that the Balkan countries cannot expect a positive turn in European integration in the foreseeable future. This would be a positive development for the EU’s political competitors in the region who are already playing their comparatively weak hands strongly, due to the EU’s hesitant resolve to make the Western Balkans move on.
Report of the second Reflection Forum organized in Trieste on 26-28 June 2017 by Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), Centre international de formation européenne (CIFE) and Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (ÖFZ/CFA), on the run-up to the Summit of Trieste on the Western Balkans, scheduled to take place on 12 July 2017.
Main findings of the Reflection Forum
- Regional tensions and bilateral conflicts in the Western Balkans: How do regional tensions become European problems?
- Internal and regional security: Going beyond the repressive security cooperation?
- Investing in infrastructures and knowledge: Escaping the gendered-economy trap?
Conclusions: Refitting the European model Western Balkan style