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The future of EU enlargement: Accelerating European integration in the Western Balkans

2021 - current

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has tested the EU’s cohesion and effectiveness not only with regard to its internal governance, but also with regard to its relationship with neighbouring countries, starting from the enlargement countries in the Western Balkans. A sequence of crises had already hardened resistance in the EU towards the accession of new members, and the pandemic may well have made things more complicated. Covid has exacerbated existing problems in the Western Balkans – notably the socio-economic entropy, unresolved constitutional disputes and backsliding in democratic standards – all of which is going to dent the lingering support for enlargement across EU member states. At the same time, external actors, notably China, Russia, Turkey and the Gulf states, are vying for political, economic and cultural influence in this part of Europe, reflecting the current acceleration of broader geopolitical strains and placing the Western Balkans in the quicksand of European and global dynamics. All this reinforces the urgency of searching for ways to adapt and upgrade the EU’s stance on and accelerate integration of the Western Balkans.

This project intends to contribute to such an effort by focusing on three drivers of change in the Western Balkans:

  • EU accession policy as part of the EU strategic autonomy debate
  • Regional cooperation and economic integration plans among the six Western Balkan countries
  • How can EU Member States support democracy and the rule of law in the Western Balkans?

The project is implemented by Istituto Affari Internazionali in cooperation with the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in the framework of the strategic partnership with Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo.

Funding: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP), Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo

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