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Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective

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Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective

In its 2008 communication entitled Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective, the Commission reiterates the commitment of the European Union (EU) to the western Balkans. It notably states its support for the majority of countries in the area gradually acquiring the status of candidate country.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 5 March 2008 entitled Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective [COM(2008) 127 – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The communication proposes a framework of actions to strengthen the EU’s commitment to the western Balkans, namely, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo (according to the status given by Resolution 1244 of the United Nations Security Council).

The objective is to bring these countries closer to the EU and to make their European perspective more tangible.

ENHANCING REGIONAL COOPERATION

To help bring these countries closer to the EU, the communication proposes a series of measures designed to enhance:

  • regional cooperation;
  • good neighbourly relations between countries in the western Balkans;
  • cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY);
  • achievement of the priorities set out in the Accession Partnerships;
  • the conclusion and implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) with each of the countries concerned.

WORKING FOR RECONCILIATION AND COOPERATION BETWEEN PEOPLES

The strategy proposed in the communication also aims to promote people-to-people contactsfamiliar with the EU between populations in the region and to work for reconciliation between peoples. A further objective is to get the countries concerned morefamiliar with the EU by encouraging better knowledge of it.

Cooperation between the region’s countries and the EU covers a range of fields, including science, research, culture, education, youth and media. There are measures designed to enable the countries from the Balkans to participate in certain Community programmes and agencies, including student exchange programmes such as Erasmus.

Furthermore, the visa-free regime, which is part of the preparations for membership and participation in the Schengen area, aims to facilitate mobility. Together with the readmission agreements, the visa facilitation agreements are the first step towards total liberalisation of visas.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND EU AID

The region has to face various challenges with regard to its economic and social development. These challenges concern competitiveness, the reduction of unemployment, labour market participation, infrastructure as well as human development and social cohesion, with due regard for sustainable development. The cooperation focuses on three areas: micro-enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), infrastructure and energy efficiency.

The region also benefits from direct financial support from the EU with the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). This programme helps beneficiaries adopt and implement the reforms needed to conform to the EU’s values and to progressively incorporate EU law with a view to membership. The European Investment Bank (EIB) also provides loans in various areas (transport, energy, SMEs, environment, municipal infrastructure, education and health).

The IPA also provides support for cross-border cooperation.

GOOD GOVERNANCE AND CIVIL SOCIETY

The EU supports the development of civil society at the local level with the aim of strengthening its role and enabling it to fully participate in the reform process.

Good governance is a key aspect of bringing the countries in the western Balkans closer to the EU.

Making progress in the area of justice, freedom and security is of crucial importance and in particular concerns:

  • the fight against organised crime, corruption and terrorism, and judicial and police reform;
  • border management;
  • regional and cross-border cooperation (Frontex);
  • actions in the field of asylum, immigration and visa policies;
  • cooperation with Europol.

Background

Following the break-up of Yugoslavia, the EU introduced the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe in a bid to encourage economic and political reforms, notably in the western Balkans. During the European Councils in Feira in 2000 and Thessaloniki in June 2003, all countries in the western Balkans were considered to be potential future members of the EU. Since then, progress has varied from country to country in terms of moving towards integration into the EU.

Further information: Steps towards joining.

RELATED ACTS

Council Regulation (EC) No 1085/2006 of 17 July 2006 establishing an Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) (Official Journal L 210 of 31.7.2006).

27.11.2014

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