The European Union's Waiting Room: Balkan States as Perennial Guests

22.05.2024

Developments in areas such as technology, transportation and communication in the early 21st century accelerated the globalization process and brought a new dynamic to international relations. In this new dynamic, where international actors interact more than ever on the basis of mutual dependence, great importance is attached to interstate cooperation and solidarity. Within the framework of this motivation, it is seen that today’s global system is the scene of many international and regional initiatives aiming economic and political integration between states. To give an example, it would be correct to consider the European Union as one of the most inclusive and successful systems among the mentioned initiatives. So much so that, it can be said that the European Union, whose main purpose in its establishment was to prevent conflicts between member states, later has developed a vision to address globalization with new focus areas such as economic cooperation, cultural exchange, diplomatic dialogue, and collective responses to global challenges. This expansion on the vertical plane, based on the diversification of cooperation areas, is also carried to the horizontal plane on the basis of further increasing economic benefit and multidimensional interaction between states, by offering an inclusive policy to new members.

The expansion project of the European Union through the addition of new members has been an important process both in the past and today for international and regional politics as well as for the organization. In this context, enlargement has been a goal for the European Union since its founding. So much so that, we can say that the organization has increased its number of members from six founding countries to twenty-seven full member states since its establishment. Especially if we need to geographically evaluate this expansion process, which gained momentum in the post-Cold War period, it stands out that the majority of the countries admitted to the Union from 2004 to 2013 were Eastern European and Balkan states. In this context, the Balkans are one of the prominent target regions in the European Union’s expansion project. Considering the four Balkan countries that have full membership status so far, as well as six Balkan states that have been taken to the “waiting room” of the European Union after they express their desire in this direction, the EU’s policies aimed at promoting stability, democracy and prosperity in the region are appreciated by the Balkan states. These candidate or potential candidate states adopt comprehensive legal, political and economic reforms to join the EU and want to find a place for themselves under the EU umbrella.

This study aims to present a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the relevant process, placing the Balkans region at the heart of the European Union’s enlargement project. In the first part, the goal and focus of the European Union’s expansion project will be examined, and the reasons for this trend and what it promises to other states will be examined in general. In the second part, the perspective will be narrowed down and the expansion project of the European Union will be tried to be read through the Balkans region, and in this regard, the motivations of both the EU and the Balkan countries in the process will be touched upon. The third part discusses the current accession processes of the six Balkan states awaiting candidacy within the framework of accelerating current politics. It is a fact that the enlargement process has been disrupted by world conflicts and the rising atmosphere of instability. In this context, the difficulties of the expansion policy also deserve to be examined comprehensively in the fourth chapter. It is thought that this given outline may be useful in showing the motivations, current situation and difficulties regarding the integration of the Balkans into the EU.

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    Diplomatik İlişkiler ve Politik Araştırmalar Merkezi

    Center for Diplomatic Affairs and Political Studies

    ‎مركز الشؤون الدبلوماسية والدراسات السياسية

    Centre des Affaires Diplomatiques et des études Politiques

    Центр дипломатических отношений и политических исследований

    外交事务与政治研究中心

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