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EU Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans published - Dr Andi Hoxhaj comments.

Dr Andi Hoxhaj, University of Warwick School of Law, comments on the new EU Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans.

"The European Commission on 6th of February 2018 adopted a strategy called ‘A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans’, for enhanced EU engagement with the six Western Balkans countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Serbia.

"The Commission’s strategy aims to inject new momentum into EU integration and speed up the process for the six countries to joining the bloc. Montenegro and Serbia are so far, the front runners with potential date to join the bloc by 2025 if they successfully complete the reforms required to become a Member of the European Union. The strategy states that merit-based prospect of EU membership for the Western Balkans is in the Union’s very own political, security and economic interest. It is a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and united Europe based on common values. However, as the strategy outlined sustained efforts and irreversible reforms in strengthening the rule of law, fundamental rights, and governance are required for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Serbia to be considered EU members.

"The strategy presented six initiatives to include “the rule of law, security and migration, socio-economic development, transport and energy connectivity, digital agenda, and reconciliation and good neighbourly relations”. The EU has taken a fresh interest in the Western Balkans countries partly because of the increased Russian, Turkish and Chinese influence and the refugee crisis that started in 2015 showed how important is the region of Western Balkans when it comes to the EU stability and safety.

"The countries of the Western Balkans will have to get much more serious about susceptible values such as rule of law, fighting corruption and organised crime, settling bilateral disputes and undertaking a range of other democratic changes in order to join the Union. Currently, the Western Balkans countries show clear elements of state capture, those including links with organised crime and corruption at all levels of government and administration, as well as a strong entanglement of public and private interests. Having said that, the new strategy provides a historic opportunity for the Western Balkans to bind their future to the European Union and its an opportunity that leaders in these countries should not let it slip away."

8 February 2018

Dr Andi Hoxhaj is a researcher at the University of Warwick's School of Law. His work was referenced by the House of Lords in its Report on ‘The UK and The Future of the Western Balkans’.

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