Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Go West: The Western Balkans towards European integration

Ninka, Eniel (2005): Go West: The Western Balkans towards European integration.

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When we talk about the Balkans we think of war, suffering, ethnic cleansing and hatred. And up to a rather recent point in time this was not a misleading idea. Unfortunately, this has been the reality in the Balkans. If one tries to imagine the map of the European Union in 2007 something would come in front of the eyes. An area in the Balkan Peninsula washed by the Adriatic Sea and circulated by Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovenia, all of them EU Member States. The Union has already coined a brand new name for this area, the “Western Balkans”. The principal aim of this work is to introduce the reader to this region. It is a rich mixture of civilisations and ethnic groups, with affiliations to Christianity, both Orthodox and Catholic, and Islam and cultural influences ranging from Roman, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian to Greek and Italian. Who are the Albanians, the Croats, the Serbs, the Macedonians, the Montenegrins and the Bosniaks, and how many of them live in the Western Balkans? Which is their origin and what languages do they speak? This work tries to answer all these questions. An overview of the economy, with a particular attention to the Foreign Direct Investments, is then given. The size of the economy of the region or the GDP is around EUR 50 billion with Croatia being the largest economy. The area grows faster than the rest of Europe. Nevertheless it, with the exception of Croatia, remains among the poorest in the continent. The EU has in several moments sustained the idea that a future enlargement process will welcome these countries in the family. It has put in place the Stabilization and Association Process as a long-term policy tool in order to facilitate and help the WB tackle the challenges of reforming democratic institutions, promoting the development and combating corruption, ethnic violence, poverty and social exclusion. CARDS is the financial arm of this policy. The perspective of the region to join the EU within the present decade however, seems rather unrealistic. Nevertheless, to avoid that the gap between the Western Balkans and their neighbours and the Europe grow wider the EU should include the WB countries in the scheme of pre-accession financial assistance and, moreover, consider them as full Candidate Countries when they conclude a Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

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