Is the EU Sleeping in the Western Balkans?

The CEU Center for European Neighborhood Studies (CENS) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) office in Budapest hosted an international conference on April 24, 2017 entitled “Western Balkans between Internal Transitions and the European Integration Process”. The conference addressed transition processes in the Western Balkans, examined the role of the EU and the urgency for a closer monitoring of the situation in the region. Our Jovana Marović was one of the speakers at the conference.

Jovana discussed how all the Western Balkan states are burdened by various problems ranging from the lack of FES20170424_084media freedom, poor preconditions for holding free and fair elections to the frequent abuse of political power. She drew attention to the fact that accession is not guaranteeing democracy in the Western Balkans, as democracy is the region is backsliding in the last ten years, which is clearly visible when it comes to the freedom of press and civil society. By supporting political elites in the Western Balkans, the EU indirectly helps further deterioration of democracy, as political elites are not engaged in executing the proposed reforms. For instance, the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Montenegro was signed in 2007, the country is already negotiating accession and there have been many improvements in legislation, but these achievements are not visible on the ground. The lack of transparency is another long-standing issue in the country. Marovic warned that there could be serious consequences if EU’s attention is further shifted from the region. The EU provides a good framework, but only 7% of the civil society recommendations are implemented. The European Commission is not interested in those recommendations, “they are interested only in the harmonization of laws with acquis, but not what civil society has to say about these laws,” said Marovic. She concluded her contribution by suggestion that civil society needs more support from the EU to develop itself and the country, as there are only several civil society organizations that can effectively influence policy-making. Also, the European Union should provide stronger pressure to force candidate countries and potential candidates for membership to implement reforms.

Conference report taken from the Center for European Neighborhood Studies’ website: https://cens.ceu.edu/article/2017-05-10/event-report-western-balkans-between-internal-transitions-and-european

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