The New Balkans in the Year of Hope for EU Enlargement

Central- & Eastern EuropeWestern Balkans ♦ Published: April 20, 2018; 07:00 ♦ (Vindobona)

2018 has been frequently described as the „year of hope“ for EU enlargement and for the Balkans. In February 2018, a new Enlargement Strategy was presented in Strasbourg by the EU Commission. Bulgaria, currently having the Presidency of the Council of the EU, will organize a major Balkan’s Summit in May 2018. Austria, for a long time one of the most prominent promoters of the EU Enlargement for the Western Balkans and a country deeply intertwined with the region, will assume the EU presidency in the second half of 2018. 2018 represents one of the crucial moments for enlargement as major steps need to be undertaken to reach the goal of making enlargement perspective realistic for 2025.

The Western Balkans: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Olahus, cropped [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Only a few years after the European Council in Thessaloniki in 2003 had strongly confirmed the perspective of EU integration for the Western Balkans, the EU enlargement process entered a phase of fatigue and political stalemate. Even though the technical process was kept on track and the EU Commission made large efforts to speed up the EU integration of the region, the new…