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Policy Contribution

The Western Balkans on the road to the European Union

Given its geographical location, the region is important to the EU in terms of security, stability, trade and transit routes. The Western Balkan countries’ economic and political prospects and their future within a European framework should remain one of the top priorities for the EU.

By: and Date: February 22, 2018 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

In the 1990s, the Western Balkan region suffered from severe conflicts, which ended after intervention by United Nations and NATO forces and with the promise of accession to the European Union. In the early and mid-2000s, the prospect of EU accession and the global boom facilitated rapid economic recovery in the Western Balkans and boosted economic and institutional reforms. However, the global financial crisis of 2007-09 and the European crisis of 2010-13 slowed the pace of economic growth and amplified high unemployment. In addition, various unresolved legacies from past conflicts slowed the pace of reform and progress towards EU accession.

The European Commission in February 2018 set an indicative deadline (2025) for admission to the EU of the two most advanced candidates – Serbia and Montenegro. This could incentivise all Western Balkan countries, including those candidates that have not yet started membership negotiations (Macedonia and Albania) and those waiting for candidate status (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo), to remove domestic political obstacles to EU accession, solve conflicts with neighbours, speed up reforms and accelerate economic growth.

The European Union and its member states must not overlook the strategic importance of the Western Balkan region. Geographically, Western Balkan countries form a land bridge and the shortest transit route between the south-east flank of the EU and its central European core. The importance of this transit route was demonstrated during the 2015-16 refugee crisis. Furthermore, Western Balkan economies are already closely integrated with the EU. The EU is their largest trade partner, largest source of incoming foreign investment and other financial flows, and the main destination for outward migration.

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Next Generation EU, was rightly hailed as a major breakthrough: never before had the EU borrowed to finance expenditures, let alone transfers to member states. But the programme and its Recovery and Resilience Facility amount to a high-risk gamble.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: September 25, 2020
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By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 15, 2020
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Ukraine: trade reorientation from Russia to the EU

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By: Marek Dabrowski, Marta Domínguez-Jiménez and Georg Zachmann Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 13, 2020
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Muddled initial reactions to the COVID-19 crisis tarnished the EU’s image in the Western Balkans. Europe should not take for granted the extent of its influence over its backyard in the face of Chinese and Russian charm offensives.

By: Aliénor Cameron and Michael Leigh Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 15, 2020
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One last push is needed to improve the Just Transition Fund proposal

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By: Aliénor Cameron, Grégory Claeys, Catarina Midões and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 11, 2020
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External Publication

EU-China trade and investment relations in challenging times

In this report, we have focused on trade and investment relations and have not attempted to define the many other policy instruments that the EU can and should pursue to increase its leverage towards China, and to protect its domestic economy while boosting domestic investment and trade.

By: Alicia García-Herrero, Guntram B. Wolff, Jianwei Xu, Niclas Poitiers, Gabriel Felbermayr, Rolf J. Langhammer, Wan-Hsin Liu and Alexander Sandkamp Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: June 4, 2020
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Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Giuseppe Porcaro, Simone Tagliapietra and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 15, 2020
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