ESI, in cooperation with The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, co-organized the high-level conference: "From Security to Development in the West Balkans” on 29th March. Marcus Cox and Gerald Knaus presented ESI research and served as chair and speaker. The policy recommendations evolving from that conference, with concrete suggestions, will soon be available on this website. (Please click here for the CSIS press-release)
The violence in Kosovo is a reminder that the Western Balkans are not stable yet, and that the role of the international community there is far from being complete. Regional security and stability are no longer threatened by inter-state conflict, but rather by perpetual economic stagnation, shortage of self-sustainable structures, and no clear perspective for the future. While Romania and Bulgaria are well on their way towards EU accession, and a decision on Turkey due in December, parts of the Western Balkans are falling miserably behind.
While regional policies committed to the process of democratic, legal and economic reforms are not negotiable and must continue, at the same time, the international community needs a strategy -- a roadmap with timelines -- to move the Western Balkans from a security zone dependent on external military and police presence, to a self-sustainable region with a clear Euro-Atlantic perspective. However, looking at 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania are scheduled to enter the EU, fresh ideas and renewed political momentum are necessary.
In order to achieve a successful transition from security to self-sustainable stability, five major issues need urgent address:
- The nature of international presence in the region
- The outstanding status issues
- The quality of democracy in the region
- The level of economic progress
- The EU perspective
Given that EU enlargement policy is under serious strain from enlargement fatigue, a flexible approach for the Western Balkans is necessary. Above all, this approach must reward progress where significant reform has been achieved -- notably in the case of Croatia -- but also, drive political commitment to reforms where one is lacking.