Western Balkans – a Slow Death of the EU Enlargement Policy

Spasimir Domaradzki

The organization of the Berlin Process summit in July 2019 in Poznań was a convenient opportunity to increase the public interest in the issues of the Western Balkan countries. The very term Western Balkans not only entails negative associations with conflicts and ethnic wars, but is also often used as a collective approach to the issues faced by the Balkan Peninsula countries which still remain outside the European Union. In this sense the term is also flexible, as it usually covers those countries which, as yet, do not belong to the EU.[1]

The purpose of this text is to reflect on the relations between the EU and the Western Balkan countries, since the EU last enlargement, and to hypothesize that the practice of these relations, regardless of the declarations made by the EU politicians, clearly indicates the weakening potential of the EU to influence the Balkan states. This fading interest in the Western Balkans is a part of the natural constraints within both the EU and the integration process, which result in the weakening power of attraction of the EU. In addition, contrary to the EU expectations, in the Balkans there is a clear trend to strengthen and consolidate the position of pseudo-democratic governments, as well as the increased influence of Russia and China.

The concluding period of the first decade of the 21st century was a breakthrough for the region. In 2006, Montenegro declared independence, thus ending its joint political entity with Serbia. On 17 February 2008, Kosovo declared its unilateral declaration of independence. The political structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina, established under the Dayton Agreement, exposed the dysfunctional nature of the created state. In turn, in 2006, in Macedonia came to power Nikola Gruevski, whose rule would end ten years later by him escaping in the trunk of a car and obtaining political asylum in Hungary. In 2005, Croatia has started membership negotiations with the EU, the failure of which was a consequence of a border dispute with Slovenia, the EU member. Moreover, tensions between the Republika Srpska and the Federation in Bosnia, as well as the dispute over the name of Macedonia and the Serbian-Kosovo relations, persisted in the region.

In the circumstances thus defined, the EU continued its policy of maintaining the position of the dominant partner of the region. The promise of a membership was (and still is) the essence of this strategy was, based on conditionality policy which anticipated that a gradual rapprochement with the countries of the region would proceed in parallel with efforts to resolve regional disputes and conflicts, so that, along with EU membership, the region would be stabilized and Europeanized. For the countries of the region, the EU seemed to be the only path to development. Over the next six years, Serbia and Montenegro submitted applications for the EU membership, obtained the status of candidate states, signed Stabilization and Association Agreements, and began accession negotiations. Other countries of the region also declared their willingness to move to the next stage on the way to membership.

At the same time, the turn of the first and second decades of the 21st century was not munificent to the integration process. The economic crisis has found the enlarged EU in a difficult situation, and has exposed the weaknesses of the single currency. At the same time, international disparities between Russia and both the EU and the US deepened, while the issue of Kosovo’s independence played a key role in returning to international confrontational policy. The Arab Spring and the destabilization of the EU’s immediate surroundings have brought new challenges in the context of the migration crisis that has afflicted the EU since 2011. In this way, somewhat in spite of the EU reality and, in a sense, on the wave of the enlargement inertia, until 2014 the countries of the Western Balkans have managed to make tangible progress in their relations with the EU.

The Juncker Commission period (2014–2019) seems to best illustrate the complexity of conceptual thinking about the Western Balkans. In 2014, when taking up the post Jean Claude Juncker announced that during his term there would be no further enlargement of the European Union, obviously a clear message was sent to the capitals of the Western Balkans that their membership was not a priority.[2] Meanwhile, four years later, the same countries saw a kind of breakthrough in their relations with the EU, in the form of a strategy for a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans[3] of 6 February 2018, and the next EU – Western Balkans summit in Sofia, during which “unequivocal support was confirmed for both the European perspective of the Western Balkans[4] as well as for preliminary declarations on the possible membership of some countries of the region by 2025”[5]. Moreover, after 2018, there were frequently made comments that the Western Balkans returned to the EU priorities, all the more so, since from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2022, the presidency of the EU Council is held by countries that declare the enlargement by including the Western Balkans as their priority.[6] Such a fundamental change in the perception of the Western Balkans by the European Union should testify to the kind of a comeback of the Balkan issue, with all its complexity. However, despite the EU stimulation, today we are witnessing a disagreement within the EU about starting accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania, as well as a symbolic blow received from Serbia, which joined the Eurasian Union. This contradiction of efforts and results requires reflection on the factors affecting the EU relations with the Western Balkans, in a context broader than just bilateral relations.

 

The lame conditionality of the European Union

 

In its essence, as Andrzej Harasimowicz noted, conditionality boils down to the interdependence that the more you reform, the more help you receive[7]. This trivialized definition accurately reflects the essence of logic that guides the EU activity towards the Western Balkans. Based on the assumption of its normative strength[8], the European Union demands order in the relations between the countries of the region, as well as the implementation of appropriate reforms, in order for them to get as close as possible to the basic principles of functioning within the united Europe. In return, the EU provides financial support in the reform process and steers membership prospects through a slowdown and acceleration mechanism. Any unfavourable development of events causes a decrease in the dynamics of rapprochement with the EU, while meeting the EU expectations is the basis for intensifying the rapprochement process, by launching subsequent steps towards the membership. Since in the activities undertaken by the EU can be seen an increase of activities towards the Western Balkans, and, as in response to this increased stimulus, one of the long-term conflicts in the region over the name of Macedonia has been resolved, it could possibly be expected that the EU would reward these actions with some progress on the path to membership. However, since the Member States were not able to reach a compromise on this matter, it is worth asking the question, what is the problem of conditionality policy?

Apart from the aspect of the evolution of conditionality itself within the framework of enlargement policy, the present consideration should include the apt statement of Othon Anastasakis, who already in 2008 claimed that, after the enlargement experience with Bulgaria and Romania, the European Union places much more emphasis on the way toward it, than on the final goal itself.[9] Indeed, from a comparative perspective of institutional progress in relations with the European Union and the great enlargement of 2004/2007, even in the context of the opened negotiating chapters, one can notice a definite change in the approach of Brussels.[10] The question should be asked whether this change was really caused by a change in the tactics of the enlargement policy, or is it the result of seeing much larger obstacles to be face by these countries on their path to membership? These obstacles do not allow for the dynamics of the rapprochement process, as their integration into the EU reality through enlargement would have a negative impact on the EU security environment. In addition, a substantial EU enlargement required (and still requires) time and energy to digest the new Member States.

The second premise for this text arises from the dominant approach to the problem among scientists and analysts, which focuses primarily on the dynamics of relations between the countries of the Western Balkans and the European Union. Yes, internal and external factors are taken into account, but special attention is paid only to the Balkan countries. It is assumed that if the problems of the countries seeking membership are solved, their membership in the European Union is guaranteed. It is this axiom, which is also the essence of conditionality policy, that requires reflection, because it is the integration process itself that is at a crossroads.[11]

 

Declared intensification and tangible towing

 

An important turning point for these reflections is the declaration of the former President, Jean Claude Juncker, who before taking up the position announced that during his term there will be no further enlargement. It can be presumed that Juncker’s attitude was caused not so much by the unsatisfactory preparation of the Western Balkan countries for membership, but by the intra-EU necessity to minimize the number of mounting problems which negatively affected the EU unity. However, such a decision was yet another step – even if pre-announced – unfavourable for the Western Balkans, after Germany initiated the Berlin Process, to which I will return further on. Unfavourable primarily because of the fact that for disparaging consequences of Juncker’s declaration, even though it was addressed to intra-EU policy, we did not have to wait long. The Balkan elites realized quickly that, in the short term, good relations with Brussels or implementation of reforms in the EU fashion would not bring tangible benefits, in the form of capitalization of public support. Juncker’s declaration did not guarantee that the EU interest would be maintained, which in itself weakened the position of the EU, at the time also involved in resolving conflicts between Greece and Macedonia (Northern) as well as Serbia and Kosovo. Thus, Juncker’s declaration sowed seeds of uncertainty in relations between Brussels and the Western Balkans.

A step backwards in policy towards the Western Balkans is best demonstrated by the Berlin Process, launched in August 2014. In view of the loss of interest in the Balkans at the EU level, and the emerging additional problems, in particular the migration crisis which has shown the Western Balkans as part of the problem, Germany initiated a change, shifting the burden of the EU conditionality to a sub-EU level. As part of the Berlin Process, Germany wanted to maintain and even intensify relations with the Western Balkans, while “pulling” the Western Balkans off the radar of the EU problems. In view of the pressing issues of the migration crisis, the post-crisis Greek economy, and the Ukrainian crisis, the Berlin Process established a kind of a circle of friends of the Western Balkans.[12]

From the beginning, the Process included the main EU countries supporting the region politically and financially (Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Great Britain), as well as directly neighbouring countries, such as Croatia or Slovenia. The Berlin Process de facto removed the issue of the Western Balkans from the EU agenda, focusing on the practical dimension of interaction with individual capitals, and aiming to dynamize relations within the Western Balkans. The EU sign was still used to stimulate individual countries, but rank, degree and commitment indicated a descent to a lower level in bilateral relations. It can be assumed that the goal of this German strategy was to dwell on the issue difficult for the EU and Western Balkans, that is to first prepare the Western Balkans states, and only then return to the topic of their membership from a much stronger position of the candidates that met with the EU expectations.

At the same time, the basic assumptions of the Berlin Process are an interesting example of the interplay of both the EU and national interests. The final declaration of the chairman of the conference on the Western Balkans in Berlin outlined the framework for a format of cooperation. The placement of the Berlin Process in the EU conditionality emphasized the dependence of the enlargement process on the degree of commitment to this emerging format of cooperation.[13] The Berlin Process was based on an assumption that, set on the principle of compromise, regional cooperation would be accelerated by solving basic security problems[14], increasing cooperation, and involving civil society. Awareness of the internal, political specificity of the countries of the region also required paying attention to the need to fight corruption and organized crime, the participation of the opposition in political life, active civil society, and free media.[15] Efforts to improve the political situation in the Western Balkan states were seen as a direct link to economic development that was supposed to improve legal assurance and reduce corruption. In the economic sphere, the creation of regional chains of values, regionalization in the spirit of the EU transport and energy policies, and adaptation of education to the needs of the labour market were encouraged, thereby reducing unemployment in the region.[16]

The priorities thus constructed strive to maintain the direction set by the EU’s enlargement policy as well as to achieve the next steps of practical rapprochement and implementation. At the same time, the Process aimed to intensify cooperation among the countries of the region. Achieving these goals would strengthen the position of factions supporting the accession of the Western Balkan countries to the EU. In essence, given the conditions unfavourable for the intensification of relations between the Western Balkan countries and the European Union, Germany has proposed sectoral and infrastructural integration, and was joined by other countries which, for various reasons, saw their interests in the region. The Berlin Process formula has proved to be convenient for the countries of the region also because it has pushed aside matters such as the rule of law and political system reforms, in favour of more mundane and tangible priorities, more easily noticed by local voters.

After five years of functioning of the Berlin Process, important steps have been taken to bring rapprochement in the region. The launch of the Regional Youth Cooperation Organization (RYCO), the prospect of abolishing roaming, or establishing a joint fund and undertaking a number of initiatives regarding transport and energy infrastructure, as well as intensifying meetings at the governmental level, or strengthening the role of the non-governmental sector, testify to important, concrete achievements, the implementation of which would not be possible without the Process. At the same time, it should be stipulated that these subsequent steps are taking place somewhat off the beaten path of the European integration, for which, until 2018, this issue was practically dormant.

The Juncker’s declaration of 2014 was a kind of guideline to remove the topic of enlargement and the Western Balkans from the main agenda of his Commission. However, under the influence of developments in the region, and, in particular, the increased activity of Russia, China or Turkey[17], the Union was forced to revisit its position. Russian foreign policy in the Balkans does not differ from the confrontational nature of the relationship initiated with the annexation of Crimea. In the Balkans, however, Russia primarily aims to sabotage those areas which are necessary to strengthen the position of the West.[18] Given the post-war problems of the Western Balkans, such as Bosnia’s internal unity, relations between Kosovo and Serbia, or the dispute over the name of the state between Macedonia and Greece, Russia’s goal is to effectively manage these countries’ fragility, so that the region is unstable enough to discourage integration. The arsenal of Russian activities to obtain this goal is not new and includes tools of economic and political pressure.[19] The issue of potential transit corridors for natural resources, military support, declared financial assistance, and joint political initiatives are to keep the Western Balkans outside the European Union. It should also be noted here that the outlays of the Russian Federation in the Balkans are much smaller, because its main aim is not to achieve specific goals, but, above all, to prevent the achievement of both the NATO and EU goals, thus preventing the strengthening of the positions of both the US and the EU in the region.

Recognizing the activity of Russia, China, and Turkey, the EU decided to re-adjust its commitment in the Balkans. In the beginning of 2018, the EU has first announced its new strategy for a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans, and then, during the Bulgarian presidency of the EU Council, a Sofia summit was organized (May 2018). As M. Szpala rightly emphasized, the new EU strategy shows an overwhelming impact of thinking about the Western Balkans in terms of actions carried out under the Berlin Process, with the rule of law added as the only novelty.[20] Given the lack of progress on this last issue, it can be concluded that the formula of the Berlin Process currently sets the framework for all that is possible in relations between the Western Balkans and the EU. Especially, because the Western Balkans summit in Sofia, planned with great pomp and expectations, was not able to alter the internal EU division on the recognition of Kosovo’s independence. In addition, its final declaration confirmed the EU position which combines the perspective of membership with both the improvement of the rule of law, as well as the struggle against corruption.[21] In these areas, in the last decade, the Western Balkan countries not only have not made progress, but even began to regress, as can be seen in the annual Freedom House and Human Rights Watch rankings. If only this factor were to be taken into account, it could be said that the prospect of enlargement in the Western Balkans was postponed ad Kalendas Graecas.

 

The natural EU restrictions

 

The 19 October European Council decision not to start membership negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania further weakened the already strained means of influence in the Balkans.[22] The French veto, which blocked the readiness of most EU countries to start negotiations[23], indicates that, in the post-Brexit priorities of Paris in the European Union, it is not the policy of enlargement, but the policy of consolidation of integration which will be a priority. If this candid French twist aimed towards organizing the smaller Union in the fashion of President Macron’s vision of diverse Europe, then it should be added that there are a number of other conditions which should be seen in the EU’s relations, not only with the Western Balkans, but also with countries in its close proximity.

The natural limitations of the enlargement policy of the European Union include those challenges that do not arise from direct EU relations with a country seeking closer relations, but relate to the internal problems of the united Europe which, directly or indirectly, make it impossible to gain critical mass for subsequent enlargements.

The French veto on the start of negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia is an emanation of a heated intra-EU conflict over the soul of the European Union. An open fight over the future nature of the EU has been going on since the White Paper on the future of Europe in the EU. On the one hand, there are supporters of further deepening the integration process towards a federalized vision of Europe. Led by President Macron, they see in Brexit an excellent opportunity to take advantage of Britain’s exit to deepen integration within the Euro zone, but above all, to obtain the possibility of an independent budget for the zone, which will also lighten the burden for the French taxpayers and thus ensure the success of Macron himself. As Piotr Buras noted, due to Macron’s ambitions and the weakening position of A. Merkel, the Franco-German tandem does not seem so obvious.[24] This divergence of positions is also evident in the approach of both countries to the Western Balkans, where the activity of Germany is opposed by the conscious passivity of Paris. At the other extreme are the countries of Central and Eastern Europe for which the French vision is unacceptable, because it aims to marginalize them. Moreover, the Central European countries are much closer to the intergovernmental than the supranational nature of the integration process. Also, on the Western Balkans issue, the countries of the region are in favour of enlargement, which is more in line with the German than the French, and have completely different priorities for the future of the integration process.

The intra-EU crisis has yet another dimension which is consciously ignored both in Brussels and among most national elites. With the 2004 and 2007 enlargements, the enlargement process was announced. While the formal path to membership has indeed been completed, the process of real integration has only just begun, however, the EU elites decided that this was a secondary matter and, as such, was left to the natural forces of integration. Nevertheless, with time, it turns out that the process of catching up with the West is not so well-defined. In addition, the generalized, pure statistics on GDP growth or Purchasing Power Parity, take into account neither the social necessity, nor perhaps even more so, the conscious integration of the new and old Union. The intra-EU labour migration based on lower labour costs has left its mark on the consciousness of host societies to such an extent that it constituted (and still does) a strong argument in the hands of Western Eurosceptics, and its destructive potential was effectively used in the referendum campaign that led to Brexit .

Additional sources of accumulation of intra-EU divisions, such as shifting the investment burden to new Member States, old and new stereotypes, and the economic crisis which intensified the sense of injustice, have a dominant impact on the perception of integration among the citizens of the old Union. An attempt to hide these problems behind the facade of tolerance and diversity had the opposite effect to the intended one, because it evolved into a bizarre form of Western moralizing, which consists of patronizing lectures and expectations of obedience. It did not take long for the elites from the “new union” to respond. Their response manifested itself in the promises of defence against the next invader, who under the guise of integration is trying to impose its own rules of the game. These omissions have resulted in, as Józef Fiszer calls it, the mega-crisis[25] which the EU is facing today.[26]

Speaking of the EU’s natural restrictions in the context of the Western Balkans, it is important to emphasize the lack of consensus on the independence of Kosovo among the Member States. The Spanish Prime Minister’s decision not to attend the Western Balkans summit in Sofia in May 2018, is just a small instance of a serious division in the EU’s joint position on the Balkans. The refusal to participate, to take a joint photo, or even to sign a joint document, which may also include the signature of the Kosovan politicians, is the sovereign decision of the Spanish Prime Minister. While this decision may seem an example of political folklore, in view of the far-reaching perspective of enlargement, its effects are much more serious. First of all, it undermines the enlargement effort itself and subconsciously disrupts it, as it is a reminder that there is no agreement in the EU as to the future of Kosovo. Secondly, it lowers the rank of the EU declarations, and through that also the policy of conditionality and the EU involvement, by constantly reminding that the regional approach severely limits the perspective of membership of individual countries. Thus, it shows the internal contradiction of the EU and weakens its credibility with local elites. After all, even if one day the talks about starting membership negotiations with Kosovo will begin, already today it is obvious that Spain (and not only Spain) will object.

 

Conclusions

 

These natural limitations of the process of the European integration are not the only reasons that hinder the integration process. However, they constitute a meta-basis from which the EU policies towards the Balkans emerge, as well as outline the framework of what is possible, thus influencing the imagination of decision-makers. Even if, from a purely technical point of view, starting negotiations with the EU is not a significant burden for the EU and the membership prospect is not much closer Therefore, it can be said that in the current policy towards the Western Balkans one can see the sum of all fears regarding the current shape of the European integration, as if reflected in a mirror.

Changes in the manner of negotiations, the Berlin Process, and the present-day unfeasibility to start negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania, illustrate the changing dynamics within the EU itself, in which the enlargement is not a priority. Internal challenges after the enlargement reality of the end of the first decade of this century, internal challenges such as the economic crisis, attempts to deepen integration beyond the treaty, or the intra-EU frustrations and external challenges, such as the Ukrainian, migration, and Brexit crises, shaped the EU’s actions towards the Balkan countries.

Bringing the EU policy to the path of the enlargement perspective was caused by the effects of conflicts in former Yugoslavia, which needed a clear response by shaping an alternative and a better reality. Moreover, by the credibility of its promises, it gave the EU an advantage over the other potential players. Today, the EU position is quite different. Prolonged negotiations, losing momentum in mutual relations, shifting the burden from the EU to those Member States that are still showing interest in the region, and the EU’s shift towards the instrumentalization of its own values, has plunged the enlargement policy. The policy which is neither unequivocal, nor predictable, or convincing. Therefore other entities, like Russia, are trying to replace it. And, even though they are able to offer much less, they are still seen as more credible and, as in the case of Serbia, they also guarantee the durability of a dream of Kosovo’s return.

 

 

[1] The term “Western Balkans” is, for instance, not used in the context of Slovenia or Croatia, although both countries were an integral part of the former Yugoslavia, whereas Albania, which was not part of Yugoslavia, is now included in the Western Balkans.

[2] See: M. Szpala, Bałkany Zachodnie coraz dalej od UE [Western Balkans further and further away from the EU], „INFOS Zagadnienia społeczno-gospodarcze,” 6(229), Biuro Analiz Sejmowych, 11.05.2017,

[3] Unijna strategia dla Bałkanów Zachodnich [The EU strategy for the Western Balkans], [online] http://oide.sejm.gov.pl/oide/images/files/pigulki/strategia_balk.pdf

[4] Szczyt UE – Bałkany Zachodnie (Sofia, 17 maja 2018), 17 maja 2018 [EU-Western Balkans summit (Sofia, 17 May 2018), 17 May 2018], [online] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/pl/meetings/international-summit/2018/05/17/

[5] It was primarily about Serbia and Montenegro. UE: KE przyjęła strategię dla krajów Bałkanów Zachodnich [EU: The EC has adopted a strategy for the countries of the Western Balkans,], Gazeta Prawna, 06.02.2018, [online] https://www.gazetaprawna.pl/artykuly/1102636,ue-ke-przyjela-strategie-dla-krajow-balkanow-zachodnich.html

[6] From among the countries holding the Presidency, only Finland (6-12/2019) does not place the issue of the Western Balkans as a priority. Bulgaria, Austria, Romania, Croatia, and Germany, as well as Slovenia which is to take over in the second half of 2021, are the countries actively supporting rapprochement with the Western Balkans.

[7] A. Harasimowicz, Europejska polityka sąsiedztwa – pechowa pierwsza dekada [European Neighborhood Policy – the unlucky first decade], Studia Europejskie, 2/2016, p. 25 [online] https://www.ce.uw.edu.pl/pliki/pw/2-2016_harasimowicz.pdf. Among the rich literature on the subject of conditionality policy, there is considerable output, out of which especially worth mentioning here are the following: F. Schimmelfennig, U. Sedelmeier. Governance by conditionality: EU rule transfer to the candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Journal of European Public Policy, 2004, 11:4, 661–679; J. Hughes, G. Sasse, C. Gordon, Europeanization and Regionalization in the EU’s Enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe, The Myth of Conditionality, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005; T. Haughton, Half Full but also Half Empty: Conditionality, Compliance and the Quality of Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, in: “POLITICAL STUDIES REVIEW”: 2011 VOL 9, 323–333; R.Epstein, U. Sedelmeier, (eds) International Influence beyond Conditionality: Postcommunist Europe after EU Enlargement. London 2009; O. Anastasakis The EU’s political conditionality in the Western Balkans: towards a more pragmatic approach, “Southeast European and Black Sea Studies”, 8:4, 2008, p. 365–377;  U. Sedelmeier, After conditionality: post-accession compliance with EU law in East Central Europe, “Journal of European Public Policy”, 15:6, 2008, p. 806–825; F. Schimmelfennig, H. Scholtz, Legacies and Leverage: EU Political Conditionality and Democracy Promotion in Historical Perspective, Europe-Asia Studies, 62:3, 2010, p. 443–460, F. Schimmelfenig, S. Engert, H. Knobel, International Socialization in Europe, European Organizations, Political Conditionality and Democratic Change, 2006; F. Schimmelfennig EU political accession conditionality after the 2004 enlargement: consistency and effectiveness, “Journal of European Public Policy,” 15:6, 2008, p. 918–937; P. Kubicek Political conditionality and European Union’s cultivation of democracy in Turkey, Democratization, 18:4, 2011, p. 910–931;

[8] See: R. G. Whitman (ed.), Normative Power Europe, Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives, 2011, also: A. Skolimowska, The European Union as a ‘Normative Power’ in International Relations. Theoretical and Empirical Challenges, “Yearbook of Polish European Studies,” Vol. 18/2015, p. 111–131.

[9] O. Anastasakis, The EU’s political conditionality in the Western Balkans: towards a more pragmatic approach, “Southeast European and Black Sea Studies,” 8:4, 2008, p. 365–377.

[10] One of the important aspects of the changes, in the context of the negotiating chapters, was the early opening of Chapters 23 and 24, on justice system and fundamental rights as well as on justice, freedom and security.

[11] On this issue, see: P. Buras, Pożegnanie z francusko-niemiecką Europa [Saying goodbye to Franco-German Europe], „Krytyka Polityczna”, [online] https://krytykapolityczna.pl/swiat/francja-niemcy-unia-europejska-nowe-wyzwania-piotr-buras/ [25.10.2019].

[12] See also: S. Domaradzki, Szczyt Bałkanów Zachodnich będzie kolejnym tankowaniem na drodze do akcesji [The Western Balkans Summit will be yet another refueling on the road to accession], „Dziennik Gazeta Prawna”, [online] https://www.gazetaprawna.pl/artykuly/1412141,szczyt-balkanow-zachodnich-w-poznaniu.html [14.05.2019]

[13] Final Declaration by the Chair of the Conference on the Western Balkans.

[14] In particular, the Greek-Macedonian dispute over the name of the state as well as boosting the reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ibidem, p. 2.

[15] Ibidem, p. 2–3.

[16] Ibidem, p. 3.

[17] M. Szpala, Nowe otwarcie w stosunkach Unia Europejska–Bałkany Zachodnie [A new opening in the EU-Western Balkans relations], Komentarze OSW, p. 267, [16.05.2018]

[18] Here understood as the EU and the USA.

[19] Krassen Stanchev, Russia’s State Owned Companies and Contemporary Bulgarian Political and Economic Landscape, Rocznik Instytutu Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej, z. 5, R. 13, 2015, p. 9–33; M. Szpala, Rosja w Serbii, miękka siła i twarde interesy [Russia in Serbia, soft power and hard interests], Komentarze OSW, [online] https://www.osw.waw.pl/pl/publikacje/komentarze-osw/2014-10-29/rosja-w-serbii-miekka-sila-i-twarde-interesy [29.10.2014]

[20] M. Szpala, Nowe otwarcie w stosunkach Unia Europejska–Bałkany Zachodnie [A new opening in the EU-Western Balkans relations], Komentarze OSW, 267, 16.05.2018

[21] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/34776/sofia-declaration_en.pdf

[22] P. Oleksy, Bałkańska porażka Unii Europejskiej [The Balkan failure of the European Union], [online] https://www.tygodnikpowszechny.pl/balkanska-porazka-unii-europejskiej-160826?fbclid=IwAR1Olu96mJ8h_zI_QONNDG4xGlqE-CEyHfBcqn1fK_0VPMoCAclb7YBQwHI

[23] Countries such as the Netherlands and Finland opposed the start of membership negotiations with Albania, but saw the need to begin them with Northern Macedonia.

[24] P. Buras, Pożegnanie z francusko-niemiecką Europą [Saying goodbye to Franco-German Europe], [online] https://krytykapolityczna.pl/swiat/francja-niemcy-unia-europejska-nowe-wyzwania-piotr-buras/ [25.10.2019]

[25] See: J. M. Fiszer, Unia Europejska po Brexicie [The European Union after Brexit], in: Unia Europejska – Chiny w XXI wieku [European Union – China in the 21st century], ed. by J. M. Fiszer, Warszawa 2018.

[26] Five EU countries do not recognize Kosovo’s independence. These are: Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Romania and Slovakia.

[27] P. Oleksy, op. cit.