EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2015

Western Balkans

26 - Overall progress of enlargement in the Western Balkans

Grade: B-
Unity 2/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 6/10
Total 11/20
Scorecard 2012: B (13/20)
Scorecard 2013: B+ (14/20)
Scorecard 2014: A- (16/20)

Enlargement in the Western Balkans was put on ice, EU leverage was weakened, and Russia’s influence was felt. 

Albania was granted candidate status in June and Serbia’s accession negotiations were launched in January. Aside from that, little progress was made on enlargement in the Western Balkans. European leverage was weakened, as states such as Serbia balanced EU demands with their interests in Russia. The offer of integration seemed ever more unrealistic, confirmed by the EU leadership’s announcement of a five-year-long enlargement freeze. Across the region the political discourse became increasingly illiberal, with continuing deterioration in Bosnia and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the implementation of the EU-facilitated 2013 agreement between Serbia and Kosovo essentially halted.

Poor economic conditions, poor governance, and frustration with ruling elites led to popular protests. Elections in Kosovo in 2014 brought a prolonged political crisis and institutional deadlock. The fairness of the election in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was criticised by the OSCE and the opposition refused to recognise the results. Nationalist tensions continue to run high and hinder reconciliation in the region, with violent outbreaks laying bare the fragility of normalisation efforts and the limits of EU’s transformative power.

European divisions over enlargement were evident, with countries such as the Netherlands, France, and the Czech Republic toughening their stance. The difficulty of achieving consensus was demonstrated during the discussions about whether to grant Albania candidate status, and in whether or not to maintain the linkage between Serbia’s accession talks and the Kosovo question. Differences on conditionality and on the pace of the process also played a role, as member state coalitions shifted depending on the country and issue. The ongoing eurozone problems continue to create weariness with enlargement and its implications in the EU. Nevertheless, the instability in the region and the growing influence of Russia prompted calls by European leaders such as Slovakia’s Miroslav Lajcak and Sweden’s Carl Bildt for a European re-engagement, and high-level visits took place in the second half of the year to confirm continuing European interest.