The next few years will be decisive for the democratic and European future of the Western Balkans.
In addition to a credible enlargement perspective and a positive enlargement narrative, which needs to be reinvented and reinvigorated, it is vital to support rule of law, civil dialogue, pluralism and the fight against corruption as well as the social dimension. It is crucial to invest more in social inclusion, to support the broad vision of just and democratic societies, which needs to include various bottom-up initiatives and actors.
Our “WB2EU network” will activate / connect / research / disseminate and create joint output on the defined topics by bringing together academia, civil society and relevant stakeholders on national, regional and EU level.
- reform, consolidate and reenergise EU Enlargement until 2025 and beyond
- mobilise, support and engage with progressive and emancipatory forces from below (movements, citizens, local initiatives) that are truly European and pro-democratic
- enhance youth and alternative voices and forces in the society
- strengthen social dimension, rule of law and justice in the region
- connect young and senior researchers, scholars, representatives of civil society, national and EU institutions, stakeholders, policy-makers, and citizens engaged in pro-democratic initiatives (local/regional/national)
PROJECT PARTNERS / WB2EU NETWORK
WESTERN BALKAN COUNTRIES
Bosnia and Herzegovina
EU MEMBER COUNTRIES
New Bulgarian University, Centre for European Refugees, Migration and Ethnic Studies (CERMES), Sofia
Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO), Zagreb
Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP), Berlin
Department for Political Science & International Relations, University of the Peloponnese, Corinth
Andrássy University, Budapest
International Affairs Institute (IAI), Rome
GlobalFocus Center, Bucharest
Centre of International Relations (CIR) – University of Ljubljana
Active citizens and a vibrant civil society are fundamental elements of a functioning democracy, especially in times of crisis. In order to boost democratisation from below, the European Union needs to promote and support citizen participation in its member states and in the candidate countries. The author of this Policy Brief states that protest movements in Romania failed to crystallise into permanent structures of representation and, in a more general sense, civil society has not succeeded in becoming a representative voice for the public. Against this background, he analyses pro-democratic protests in the past, the quality of democracy in Romania, and offers policy recommendations.
Education plays a crucial role in promoting democratic values, human rights, tolerance, and respect for diversity. This is why the European Union launched the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme in 2021 to support and develop open, rights-based, democratic, equal, and inclusive societies based on the rule of law. To understand how ideologies can damage society, young people need to know about history, especially about periods marked by extremism and violence, argues the author of this Policy Brief. He explores the contentious issue of the "Za dom spremni" greeting in Croatia, examining its historical significance, legal framework, and diverse perspectives. The Policy Brief sheds light on the complexities of balancing free expression and democratic values in confronting the country's past.
The long-term unfavourable Eurobarometer trends toward the admission of new EU members for now seem to have been reversed, with EU citizens generally in favour today being greater than those against. In the same fashion as the 2004 enlargement was framed through the identity argument for the purpose of reuniting Europe after the end of the Cold War, the war in Ukraine has changed the public’s perspective towards the Balkan and Eastern Neighbourhood countries. Keeping public opinion in mind is of utmost importance, since mass attitudes, through their influence on political behaviour, do play a crucial role in influencing EU enlargement policy. Against this background, the authors of this Policy Brief analyse attitudes and opinion trends towards enlargement, discuss how they are linked to Euroscepticism and overall trust in EU integration, and offer policy recommendations.
Europa Club Spezial: Is EU enlargement back on track? Moving towards a democratic and united Europe, 9. Oktober 2023
On the one hand, there is a gap between the six countries of the Western Balkans and their partners in the European Union, and on the other hand, the speed of their convergence towards the EU defines the pace of enlargement progress. All Western Balkan countries are engaged in reforms that are transforming their institutions, developing their economies, and improving the quality of life of their citizens. The EU, through its enlargement mechanism, is supporting them. But on their way to membership, their economies must grow quickly to catch up with their EU peers, and local infrastructure must be upgraded and extended. Domestic institutions should complete the reforms and also deliver on the rule of law, justice reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as security and fundamental rights. The author of this Policy Brief creates a methodological framework that links the local infrastructure, domestic institutions, and people, allowing us to understand the dynamics and complexity of sustainable and resilient development paths as well as identify entry points for the Western Balkans and EU policy-makers.
In the short period of two years, from 4 April 2021 to 2 April 2023, Bulgaria’s citizens were sent to the polls to vote in six elections: five snap general elections and one presidential election. Citizens are overwhelmed and exhausted. The exceptional has become the most constant: crisis, argues the author of this Policy Brief. The Policy Brief analyses the symbolic battles between elites and citizens for framing and dominating political crises and offers policy recommendations.