Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of communist regimes throughout Europe, the European Union has been active in its expansion towards the East, with the three most recent enlargements – of 2004, 2007 and 2013 – all granting access almost exclusively to former Eastern Bloc states. Still, this initiative is seen as incomplete: already in 2003, the Union declared that the future of the Balkans lays within the EU and that the approaching accession of the CEE countries should serve as an example for the Western Balkans to follow (European Union, 2003). The following accessions of Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia left a small island of six Balkan countries surrounded by EU borders: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. This group, which is often referred to as the Western Balkans (WB) despite the unclear definition of the term (Žižek, 1999), and their ongoing progress towards entering the EU will be the object of this policy paper which will aim to provide policy recommendations to accelerate that process. For this purpose, the present paper will first place the WB accession project within the overall context of the European Union’s eastward expansion and provide an overview of its most recent developments. Afterwards, concrete issues and proposed solutions for them will be presented, in two stages. First will be discussed issues which are common to all Western Balkan states and therefore could be solved via similar policies; second, each state will be viewed individually in order to highlight their individual areas of priority.
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