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North Macedonia was the first Western Balkan country to sign a stabilisation and association agreement with the EU in 2004; just one year later, it became a candidate country. However, bilateral disputes with Greece and Bulgaria have blocked accession negotiations so far.

Serbia: EU accession progress stalled

At a Glance 07-06-2021

The EU opened accession negotiations with Serbia, a country with a population of 6.7 million, in 2013. Serbia got off to a strong start, but progress has stalled in recent years. Unresolved regional issues, in particular the stalemate of the political dialogue with Pristina, as well as lukewarm progress in rule-of-law reforms, are blocking accession negotiations. Parliamentary elections held in June 2020 have not yet provided the expected momentum, and the risk is that the country will progressively ...

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), alongside other Western Balkans countries, was identified as a potential candidate for EU membership during the European Council's Thessaloniki summit of June 2003. BiH applied for EU membership in February 2016. The Commission adopted its opinion on BiH's EU membership application in May 2019, but internal political instability and lack of political reforms have dampened the country's prospects of joining the EU.

Serbia: sitting on two chairs

At a Glance 16-10-2019

Until recently, Serbia was considered a frontrunner among the western Balkan candidate countries. However, Serbian frustration at slow progress towards EU membership has opened a space for closer links with the Russian Federation and, more recently, China, shedding doubt on Belgrade's commitment to a European perspective.

The Western Balkans

EU Fact Sheets 01-09-2017

The EU has developed a policy to support the gradual integration of the Western Balkan countries with the Union. On 1 July 2013, Croatia became the first of the seven countries to join, and Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania are official candidates. Accession negotiations and chapters have been opened with Montenegro and Serbia. Bosnia and Herzegovina (which submitted its membership application in early 2016) and Kosovo are potential candidate countries.

Kosovo: 2016 country report

At a Glance 07-06-2017

In June, following the early election in Kosovo, the European Parliament is due to vote on a resolution on Kosovo's 2016 report. It calls for restoring the political dialogue, swift fulfilment of the Commission's two conditions for visa liberalisation and continued commitment to the dialogue with Belgrade.

In 2015, Bosnia and Herzegovina's Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU finally came into force, and in 2016 BiH applied for EU membership. Despite these positives which have put it back on track for EU accession, BiH faces a host of deeply rooted domestic issues and reforms.

Resolving their deep-seated rivalries has been one of the conditions placed on Serbia and Kosovo for achieving their shared goal of EU entry. Since 2011, an EU-mediated dialogue has sought to strike a balance between their past conflicts and present aspirations. Although tensions persist, the goal is to translate the deals signed by both sides into reality, and to keep their dialogue going.

The Commission's latest progress report notes that, in 2015, Kosovo was still at an 'early stage' of preparedness for EU membership. However, in October 2015 it signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, which reaffirmed its EU perspective.

The intricate political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) reflects its multi-ethnic texture and complex history. Its entities' dominant ethnic composition and the established power-sharing mechanisms have so far fostered ethnic voting and left little chance for non-nationalist political parties. The result has been political instability and dysfunctional institutions in need of reform.