REGIONAL COOPERATION IN THE WESTERN BALKANS - A KEY TO INTEGRATION INTO THE EUROPEAN UNION Antonija Petričušić* Summary: Impaired interethnic relations in the Western Balkan countries and the absence of multicultural policies proved to be major obstacles to stability, security and democracy in the 1990s. In attempting to identify what the security implications for enlargement are, the authorargues that the EU should develop specific policies towards countries with a higher risk of ethnic tensions (e.g. Bosnia-Herzegovina) than those with no apparent potential for conflicts to re-emerge (e.g. Croatia). Further on, having claimed that the unresolved status of Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina might have an impact on stability in the region, the author argues that, despite the EU’s advocacy ofan individual approach towards applicant states, the Union’s relations with the Western Balkans will probably remain characterised by a more regional approach, in terms both of commonlyused patterns of accession (applying the same criteria and assessing achievements via the Stabilization and Association Process) and of the EU’s insistence on regional cooperation. The necessity of regionalcooperation in the Western Balkans is emphasised, and the political, economic and social problems common to all countries in the region are highlighted. Finally, the author concludes that the EU’s insistence on regional cooperation in the region should be viewed as an incentive to addressing cross-boundary issues, and not as a threat that individual accession could be obstructed. Introduction and BasicHypotheses Any kind of cooperation between states should enhance the security and stability among them. The example of the European Union (hereinafter: EU) is often pointed out as an undertaking that maintains peace among its member states.1 The unification of Europe will not be complete until the EU
* Antonija Petričušić, MA, research fellow at the Institute for International Relations,Zagreb, Croatia. The author would like to thank Alexandra Letts and Leonhard Voltmer for their insightful comments on the draft of the paper. The first draft of the paper was prepared for presentation at the International Seminar "Advanced Issues of European Law", Inter University Centre, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 29 February – 7 March, 2004. Ove Juul Jørgensen, The Enlargement Process: The Path to aPeaceful and Prosperous Europe, http://jpn.cec.eu.int/
includes the region of the Western Balkans2, affected in the recent past by interethnic conflicts. Moreover, the prospective enlargement of the EU into the Western Balkans is perceived as the EU's contribution to security and stability in the region. Apart from playing a role in ending ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, the EU (together withother international organisations) still assures internal security in two Western Balkan countries in which NATO troops have been deployed (Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Province of Kosovo of Serbia and Montenegro).3 Furthermore, it is very likely that the candidate status recently granted to one of the region’s countries would bring stability not only to the country itself but also to thebroader region. In addition, reconstruction and state building are mostly financed by the EU countries.4 The prospect is that it will become a development instrument, since the hope of accession has enhanced democratisation policies in the countries of the region, and has contributed to the undertaking of necessary transformations in domestic policies.5
For the purposes of this paper, theWestern Balkans refers to the region comprising the five Southeastern European countries involved in the EU Stabilisation and Association Process: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. 3 Ethnic conflict contributed to redefining the relationship between the EU and the US. Only then did the EU start to design its own common...
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