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.
The ‘new enlargement methodology’ may help overcome the impasse triggered by the inability of the European Council to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania
Historically, the EU enlargement process played a powerful role in encouraging the EU candidates and potential candidates to conduct fundamental political, economic and institutional reforms. This has also happened with the Western Balkan countries once they received the EU membership perspective in 2003. However, in the last few years, preparations for their accession slowed down, as a result of limited progress in domestic reforms, unresolved regional conflicts and limited appetite for further enlargement among EU member states.
Since their accession to the EU 15 years ago, the incomes of most central Europeans have increased faster than the incomes of longer-standing members and, thereby, they moved upwards in the EU distribution of income. Yet the very poorest people have not progressed in some countries.
Banking and financial regulation in the East and the West: links, differences and future.
Improvement in institutional quality, particularly concerning the rule of law, is the most essential and urgent structural reform the EU can make. Without it, the obtrusive lack of trust in the EU – which has thus far hampered expansionary and reformist efforts – will persist.
The western Balkan economies are already closely integrated with the EU; the EU is their largest trade partner, their largest source of incoming foreign investment and other financial flows, and the main destination for outward migration. Monetary and financial systems in the region are strongly dependent on the euro. Progress in EU accession can further strengthen economic ties between six western Balkan countries and the EU, with benefits for both sides.
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.
EU membership led to major financial and economic advantages to central European Member States, partly by encouraging foreign investment. Widespread foreign ownership of capital brought many benefits but also resulted in large profits. Since central European governments are doing their utmost to attract even more foreign capital, foreign profit is set to increase further.