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The EU and the Western Balkans: Is it Time for the Alternative?

Speakers of the third panel of the Academic Event titled The EU and the Western Balkans were discussing the political future of Western Balkan and the role of the region in integration processes. After many issues being raised, two question came instead of the conclusion: Is it time for the alternative to the EU? Is there an alternative?

Daskalovski stated that there was a considerable negative energy of EU member states (among both governments and citizens) towards enlargement process. At the same time, the support to the EU in Western Balkan countries is significantly declining. Both entities have their internal problems as well. EU is struggling with the refugee crisis, euroscepticism of the UK, Greece wanting to exit the union. Balkan suffers under inefficient political elites whose main goal is to remain in power. As a possible solution Daskalovski proposed that EU should restore the idea of good relations with neighbours, and that certain tasks in transition process should be delegated to opposition parties in Western Balkan countries, which is seen as an opportunity to unite the elites.

Dursun-Özkanca discussed growing presence of Turkey in this region, and weather its indisputable soft power can and will be transformed into real political and economic influence. The speaker didn’t give a final answer on this due to the ambivalent circumstances. On one side, she puts her faithin benefits from visa free system, attachment to life style, on the other hand, Turkish foreign policy holds limitations and might be unable to deliver the aspirations it is promising, considering the recent borders instability and the refugees crisis consequently burdening Turkish economy. Also, Balkan’s perception of Turkey as biased third party favouring Muslim populations shall not be overlooked.

Gashi was analysing the dialog between Belgrade and Pristina. He critically investigated the EU statements through the lens of discourse analysis. He advised to be critical when symbols take over the actual concept and to re-focus on the concrete advancement the Serbian and Kosovarian authorities are making towards their mutual relations.

Kovačević has noticed that Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy gave disappointing results. According to her opinion, the main reason were unrealistically high goals that the EU is putting in front of candidate countries. Kovačević concluded that the EU needs to be consistent, coherent and credible in its demands, which is not the case so far.

  • Krenar Gashi, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Zhidas Daskalovski, University of Kliment Ohridski, Macedonia
  • Oya Dursun-Özkanca, Elizabethtown College, USA
  • Maja Kovačević, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • Dejan Jović‚ Professor of International Relations, University of Zagreb
  • Karsten Friis‚ Senior Advisor, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)