One Year of "Friends of the Western Balkans": A Review of Progress and Challenges

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: June 24, 2024; 21:54 ♦ (Vindobona)

The "Friends of the Western Balkans" initiative celebrated its first birthday under the leadership of Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. Launched a year ago, the group aims to support and accelerate the EU integration process of the Western Balkan countries. The foreign ministers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia met again in Göttweig to celebrate this milestone, review the past year and discuss future steps.

With the aim of supporting and accelerating the EU integration process of the Western Balkan countries, Austria's Foreign Minister Schallenberg invited the "Friends of the Western Balkans" group to the Wachau European Forum. / Picture: © BMEIA Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres / Michael Gruber / Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

After just one year, the initiative can already look back on significant successes. Thanks to the efforts of the "Friends of the Western Balkans", EU accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina have begun. In addition, Foreign Minister Schallenberg has promoted the concept of gradual integration, which enables the Western Balkan states to gradually integrate into certain EU…