International Conference on the Balkans, Turkey and the European Union, Çağ University, Mersin, Mersin, Turkey, 19 April 2022, pp.1-7
A Keynote Speech
The European Union’s Western Balkans Strategy: Transforming the Problems
Prof. Dr. Mustafa Türkeş
Department of International Relations, Middle East Technical University, Ankara
This paper examines the EU’s strategy toward the Western Balkans from 1999 to 2022. The Western Balkans, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Serbia expressed their desire to be full members of the EU. However, they were asked to meet a set of newly created pre-accession conditions, in addition to the Copenhagen criteria. It was the Stabilization Process (SP). That was expected to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAA). All the countries in the Western Balkans, except Kosovo, passed through such a process. However, this could only provide them to get permission for the application without ensuring whether or not the EU would invite them to start membership negotiation. Even so, those who became candidates were kept at arms’ length without a substantial reason, once again casting doubt on the prospect of full membership.
Elsewhere in an article, I had defined the EU’s Western Balkans strategy until 2006 as “neither total exclusion nor rapid integration” that became daunting, and now I argue that it is the new factors that are forcing the EU to redefine its strategy of “neither total exclusion nor rapid integration” of the Western Balkans. There may likely be an accelerated process of negotiation for membership. However, it is unlikely to result in the successful completion of the EU memberships of all the Western Balkans soon. The paper concludes that unless a clear revision of the policies at international and national levels occurs, the EU’s Western Balkans strategy may transform the problems rather than solve them.
Keywords: The EU strategy, Stabilization and Association Process, Stabilization and Association Agreements, the Western Balkans