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The Balkans in Europe: containment or transformation? Twelve ideas for action

17 June 2008

This publication, based on the work of a European Policy Centre Task Force run in collaboration with the King Baudouin Foundation and made up of Balkan experts, aims to do just that. It explores the dilemmas facing the EU and the challenges in the region, and, based on this assessment, suggests 12 ideas which could guide future action by the EU, the countries in the region and other institutions.

The paper points out that the Union has so far taken a dual-track approach: using the ‘soft’ tools developed in previous enlargement rounds with the aim of transforming the countries of the region into potential EU Member States, while at the same time addressing challenges specific to the region by deploying the ‘harder’ tools of military and police intervention and, in some cases, building protectorates. This ‘security versus transformation’ dilemma should be resolved by focusing on the process required to end protectorates and shift powers to local leaders. The exit strategy from protectorates should mark the entry strategy into the EU.

While emphasising that conditionality is not an à la carte menu, the EU should also provide more and targeted ‘carrots’ which bring real benefits to the population - possibilities to travel, develop businesses and open up to the world, through visa liberalisation and the creation of a Balkan Passport Union.

The paper argues that the Balkan states should start tabling their EU membership applications sooner rather than later. An early start to the ‘screening’ process would also help governments in the region channel their reform efforts. Countries in the region urgently need a reaffirmation of the EU’s political commitment, to counter the negative impact of ‘enlargement fatigue’. This could be done by beginning work soon on the institutional changes needed to accommodate a growing number of EU Member States in Croatia’s Treaty of Accession.

Finally, the EU should ensure that a likely accession scenario based on individual countries joining as and when they are ready does not create new dividing lines in the Balkans or disrupt patterns of regional cooperation but rather serves as a virtuous example to the neighbours of acceding states.


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