Balkan-Euro Integration

Posted on January 2, 2012



Continuing our study of interdependence and stability is the ongoing integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union (EU). At the signing of a free travel agreement between Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro, the Montenegrin Foreign Minister proclaimed, “we share a history, the present, but also a common future towards the EU.” The shared commitment for EU integration was echoed by his Albanian and Macedonian counterparts.

What is most compelling of this interdependence to stability model is that despite the ongoing crisis of the eurozone, these states continue to place integration at the forefront of their national agendas. While critics claim the EU dream has comes to an end, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia tirelessly work to reform their domestic economic, political, and social governance to gain candidacy into the union. At the recent approval of Croatian candidacy, the European Commissioner Stefan Fule proclaimed, “Croatia transformed itself because of the reforms undertaken…” to meet the rigorous conditions of EU application.

While each path toward EU candidacy is fraught with their own challenges, they are all striving to meet the economic and political conditions necessary to achieve euro-integration. Some of the challenges of disintegration are reflected in core social and political strife. However, as the former UK minister for the Balkans Denis MacShane noted despite ultra-nationalist warnings of Serbian leaders, fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were both extradited to the Hague to face charges of war crimes from the Balkan Wars of the 1990s as conditions of Serbia’s EU candidacy. He went on to note that similar warnings are levied by Serbian leaders relating to the status of the Republic of Kosovo. Yet he saw little prospect of economic or political stability in Kosovo, “…without making it fully part of a region fully committed to integration with itself and the EU.”

While these and other challenges slow integration and the euro zone crisis continues to boil, development of regional interdependence of Balkan countries continues to promote their domestic stability. In December the European Commission committed another 1 billion euros on top of a previously committed 10.5 billion euros towards domestic governance reforms targeted to achieve greater regional integration. “All these programs have been designed to achieve concrete results in terms of better public administration, more efficient judiciary and law enforcement, stable economy as well as a safer environment,” claimed Commissioner Fule. Analysts suggest that while these reforms are intended to bring the Western Balkan in line with EU accessions standards they will simultaneously advance mutual cooperation in the region.