By Assist. Prof. Dr Fusun Ozerdem | 01 June 2010
On 1 May 2004, the European Union (EU) undertook its biggest enlargement with ten new Member States. Two more Member States, Bulgaria and Romania followed this expansion on 1 January 2007. Currently, Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are candidate countries and the negotiation process was opened with Turkey and Croatia on 3 October 2005. Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244) in the Western Balkans region are considered potential candidate countries.
Candidate countries need to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria which are a range of economic and political conditions in order to join the EU which provides financial assistance for improving infrastructure and economic and political systems to candidate countries. The Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) is the EU’s policy for Western Balkans. On November 2000, at the Zagreb Summit, the SAP is launced for Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Croatia and Macedonia, which are candidate countries, remain part of this process. A year after, the Community Assistance for Reconstruction Development and Stabilisation (CARDS) programme is specifically designed for SAP countries. The new Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) replaces the CARDS and covers candidate and potential candidate countries.
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement’s aim, which is signed between the EU and Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia is to support these countries’ economic transition and to strengthen their integration into the EU Single Market. The Agreement covers reforms from political dialogue to freedoms in the movement of goods, services, workers and capital and requires trade liberalization. Also regional cooperation is another emphasized area. However, the experience shows that the countries in the region are facing a number of problems with their EU accession process, some of which are related to their recent histroy with the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. Therefore, the objective of this article is to identify the main challenges with the EU membership process of these Western Balkans countries and as the review will show unless there is a resolution with the Kosovo issue in the near future, the hopes for security and stability through EU membership will need to wait for a long time. However, before that it is important to do a quick stocktaking of Western Balkan countries EU membership processes.
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* Published in the Second Issue of Political Reflection Magazine (PR).