Reinventing EU Enlargement: Macedonia and the Western Balkans - Integrating Europe’s Inner Courtyard
“Reinventing EU Enlargement: Macedonia and the Western Balkans Integrating Europe’s Inner Courtyard”
On June 2nd, in Sarajevo, the European Union will host an EU-Western Balkans summit marking the tenth anniversary since the launching of the new enlargement track, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, first signed by the Republic of Macedonia in 2001. A decade later, it is time to reflect on what the countries of the region have achieved and what the EU has accomplished when it comes to integrating its inner courtyard. We can asses now that the Western Balkans has exactly remained this, an inner courtyard of the Union, a region encircled by EU member states, new and old. Whilst this creates incentives for an accelerated approximation of the countries of the region into the EU, prolonged be it, as it is, this also produces frustration, a potential for instability as well as missed economic opportunities, both for the aspiring countries themselves as well as the EU. The EU needs a sober perspective at the Western Balkans; moreover it needs to follow its own assessments and values, and should start the accession talks. This would send a major signal across the region that painful reforms do provide for tangible results, as it is tangibility that the region needs not empty rhetoric. The Western Balkan countries need the EU as well as the Union needs them. Not a cliché, this statement has a deep political, security, and economic rationale for both sides of the equation. The Hungarian presidency of the EU in 2011 will be an opportunity for the Union to pay a more substantial focus to its southeast inner courtyard and make for Sarajevo not to be just a flashpoint in a long list of courteous conferences.