Policy brief

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 count

Publishing date
22 February 2018

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.

About the authors

  • Marek Dabrowski

    Dr. Marek Dabrowski is a Non-Resident Scholar at Bruegel, Professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, co-founder and Fellow at CASE - Center for Social and Economic Research in Warsaw and Member of the Scientific Council of the E.T. Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy in Moscow.

    He was Chairman of the CASE Supervisory Council and its President of Management Board (1991-2011), Chairman of the Supervisory Board of CASE Ukraine in Kyiv (1999-2009 and 2013-2015), and Fellow under the 2014-2015 Fellowship Initiative of the European Commission – Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs. He is a former First Deputy Minister of Finance of Poland (1989-1990), Member of Parliament (1991-1993) and Member of the Monetary Policy Council of the National Bank of Poland (1998-2004).

    Since the end of 1980s he has been involved in policy advising and policy research in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yemen, and in a number of international research projects related to monetary and fiscal policies, growth and poverty, currency crises, international financial architecture, perspectives of European integration, European Neighborhood Policy, trade policy, and political economy of transition.

    He has also worked as a consultant in a number of EU, World Bank, IMF, UNDP, OECD and USAID projects. Marek is the author of several academic and policy papers, and editor of several book publications.

  • Yana Myachenkova

    Yana Myachenkova, a Russian citizen, works as a Research Assistant at Bruegel. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, with an exchange program at the Erasmus School of Economics and visiting studies at UCLA, and a Master in Economic Theory and Econometrics from the Toulouse School of Economics (Université Toulouse 1 Capitole).

    Both Yana’s bachelor and master theses focused on answering the central questions of contract theory, using some insights from psychology and examining such topics as the emergence of the bonus culture.

    Her research interests lie in the areas of applied microeconomics. Yana is primarily interested in such research fields as Regulation, Incentives, Behavioral and Experimental Economics, Contract Theory and Industrial Organization.

    She is fluent in Russian and English, and has basic knowledge of French.

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