Western Balkans 2 European Union

Detailed project description


"Since 2018, when the EC spoke about the “year of hope“ for EU Enlargement, until today there was not much room for optimism. The French No to opening negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania created a new vacuum in the EU and in the region. The new EC seems to regain momentum in the Western Balkans and to re-establish itself as a “global player”. After the new Enlargement Methodology of the EC was presented in February 2020 it gleams that France will agree on the opening of negotiations. At the same time, the EC is preparing a communique for the Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb (May 2020) incl. a set of priorities (e.g. strengthening of rule of law, social dimension, the issue of emigration and green agenda for the region).

On the side of the countries of the Western Balkans we face deeply rooted structural problems ranging from flawed state of democracy to the states and societies being captured by dominant elites, political parties, exclusive politics and nationalist discourses. Those problems point at the structural weaknesses of the rule of law, the fundamental pillar of any stable liberal democracy. While political elites/representatives claim to be democratic/pro-European they engage in partisan/clientelistic policies that prevent social inclusion, deepen the cleavages in the society and leave the populace with the feeling of living in a society without societal justice. At the same time political power circles largely use divisive/nationalist-populist rhetoric and engage in semi-authoritarian practices of governance which undermine democracy."

"The need to engage more with democratic and emancipatory civic actors/movements in the region, to focus more prominently and consistently on the social dimension of enlargement remains a must. It is encouraging that social engagement and civic activism seem to be on the rise in the region. The recent wave of protests, from Banja Luka, Sarajevo to Belgrade or Tirana, many smaller local civic initiatives (against corruption, environmental issues, etc.) advocate for the need for more free, just societies and for a new European momentum that embodies liberal European values, rule of law, democracy and freedom. Those forces can stimulate and support positive developments from below, initiate a new wave of democratisation and Europeanisation beyond captured states and become the long-term alternative to the current elite set-up on the political scene. They can promote the social agenda more intensively than the formal stakeholders.

We argue that the next few years will be decisive for the democratic and European future of the Western Balkans: In addition to a credible enlargement perspective and a positive enlargement narrative, which needs to be reinvented and reinvigorated, it is vital to support rule of law, civil dialogue, pluralism and the fight against corruption as well as the social dimension. It is crucial to invest more in social inclusion, to support the broad vision of just and democratic societies, which needs to include various bottom-up initiatives and actors. Our “WB2EU network” will activate êconnect êresearch êdisseminate on the defined topics by creating interactions and collaborative outputs between academia/researchers with civil society/civic initiatives and stakeholders on national, regional and EU level."

Please visit the project website for more information.

Project type
  • Other
Geographical focus
  • European Union (EU 27)
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General
October 2020 - October 2023

Entry created by Admin WBC-RTI.info on November 7, 2022
Modified on July 6, 2023