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Western Balkans: State of play in the European Council

17-10-2019

The Western Balkans have regularly featured on the agenda of the European Council since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. Three dimensions – enlargement, counter-terrorism and migration – have been at the centre of the EU leaders' discussion of the subject. The European Commission recommended twice in the last two years the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. In the absence of an agreement at the 15 October 2019 General Affairs Council, the ...

The Western Balkans have regularly featured on the agenda of the European Council since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. Three dimensions – enlargement, counter-terrorism and migration – have been at the centre of the EU leaders' discussion of the subject. The European Commission recommended twice in the last two years the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. In the absence of an agreement at the 15 October 2019 General Affairs Council, the decision on whether to open accession negotiations with the two countries now lies with the European Council.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Foreign policy

28-06-2019

European Union (EU) action beyond its borders often requires a combination of approaches. The EU Treaties differentiate between common foreign and security policy (CFSP), common security and defence policy (CSDP), external action, and the external dimension of internal policies, but in the field, issues are so intertwined that more often than not a single tool is not sufficient. For example, population displacement triggered by a conflict over natural resources has to be addressed by humanitarian ...

European Union (EU) action beyond its borders often requires a combination of approaches. The EU Treaties differentiate between common foreign and security policy (CFSP), common security and defence policy (CSDP), external action, and the external dimension of internal policies, but in the field, issues are so intertwined that more often than not a single tool is not sufficient. For example, population displacement triggered by a conflict over natural resources has to be addressed by humanitarian aid, itself secured by a CSDP mission, and its effects mitigated by adequate migration and development policies, while peace talks are conducted. Coordination between all stakeholders is challenging but vital, not only as a response but also for prevention. To address new challenges such as climate change, rising insecurity or new migration patterns, the EU has put forward concrete solutions to shape synergy between the actors, in order to use shared expertise more effectively, and to find new sources of funding. The new foreign policy framework (EU global strategy) is intended to map the tools and resources best designed to help society as a whole, in the EU and partner countries, to withstand natural and manmade shocks more effectively. This means making connections between actors and between traditionally separate policy areas. Budgetary constraints and the will to depart from a donor/recipient relationship have also resulted in innovative financing tools, using EU funds to leverage private investments. While, since its launch, the global strategy has proved to be a coherent vision, sturdy, comprehensive external action nevertheless requires coordination at all levels. In the years to come, global instability is expected to rise; the challenge for the EU will be to ensure security while upholding the core values of the Treaties – human rights, democracy and the fight against poverty – as its primary objectives on the global stage. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: EU support for democracy and peace in the world

28-06-2019

From the outset, the European Union (EU) has been an integration project directed at preserving peace among its Member States – a fundamental objective that it has succeeded in achieving for over 60 years. As a community of like-minded states, the EU is also based on certain fundamental values, such as democracy and the rule of law, which the Union aspires to promote, both internally and externally, and which guide all its policies. In line with this vision, the EU has developed specific policies ...

From the outset, the European Union (EU) has been an integration project directed at preserving peace among its Member States – a fundamental objective that it has succeeded in achieving for over 60 years. As a community of like-minded states, the EU is also based on certain fundamental values, such as democracy and the rule of law, which the Union aspires to promote, both internally and externally, and which guide all its policies. In line with this vision, the EU has developed specific policies to support democracy and peace in the world. It also aims to integrate the pursuit of peace and democracy with all its other external actions in areas such as trade, development, enlargement and neighbourhood policies, its common foreign and security policy, and political and diplomatic relations with third countries and multilateral institutions. The EU has established a reputation as a soft power organisation guided by a normative vision and as an effective actor for peace and democracy. Strengthening peace and democracy globally has never been an easy task, however, and today's geopolitical context poses new challenges. The proliferation and increasing gravity and duration of conflicts – some in the EU's immediate neighbourhood, the emergence of new threats, such as terrorism or nuclear proliferation, and the crisis of liberal systems have driven the EU to widen and intensify its efforts. They have also led to a new vision for action revolving around the concept of 'resilient societies' based on the mutually reinforcing pillars of peace and democracy, and a special emphasis on fragile states. Against this background, recent surveys have shown that citizens expect the EU to be even more active in promoting peace and democracy externally – something that should surely strengthen its resolve to make further progress in this crucial area. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Reconciliation in the Western Balkans: The difficulty of emulating the EU model

17-04-2019

In 2017, the European Union turned 60, celebrating not only six decades of peace between its Member States but also integration – based on a framework for a peaceful European ethos – which helped bring reconciliation to its citizens that would have otherwise been impossible to achieve. In the Western Balkans, which were torn apart by wars after the disintegration of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, conflicting narratives about the past continue to charge intra-regional relations with animosity ...

In 2017, the European Union turned 60, celebrating not only six decades of peace between its Member States but also integration – based on a framework for a peaceful European ethos – which helped bring reconciliation to its citizens that would have otherwise been impossible to achieve. In the Western Balkans, which were torn apart by wars after the disintegration of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, conflicting narratives about the past continue to charge intra-regional relations with animosity, and a number of bilateral disputes await resolution. Just as the European Communities helped to bring peace to post-World War II western Europe, so does the EU promote the reconciliation process in the countries that were once part of Yugoslavia. A credible promise of accession to the EU for all Western Balkan countries gives them an incentive to improve their working relationships and work on reconciliation more vigorously. Since 2017, the EU has renewed its attempts to infuse the Western Balkan countries' enlargement process with fresh energy. In a March 2018 statement, the EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, said it was 'time to close the wounds of the past' and take steps to guarantee stability for the whole of Europe. The European Commission's new enlargement strategy of February 2018, apart from placing special emphasis on solving all bilateral disputes, highlights reconciliation as a prerequisite for EU accession, and envisages a dedicated flagship initiative. This briefing aims to draw attention to the importance of reconciliation, both as part of the Western Balkans' EU integration process and as an answer to the region's widely perceived need to come to terms with the past. Civil-society representatives and experts often see reconciliation in the region as a prerequisite for building sustainable cooperation in many areas and a process that would help local youth to overcome their prejudices and restore their trust in their countries and region. However, achieving reconciliation requires cooperation in practice, something that will likely take decades to accomplish.

Constitutional Challenges of the Enlargement – Is Further Enlargement Feasible without Constitutional Changes?

26-03-2019

This in-depth analysis, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, recalls the earlier debates linking the enlargement of the Union with the need to adapt its constitutional framework, and discusses whether further constitutional reforms, involving Treaty change or not, are necessary when a further enlargement of the Union will take place in the near future. It focuses on three ...

This in-depth analysis, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, recalls the earlier debates linking the enlargement of the Union with the need to adapt its constitutional framework, and discusses whether further constitutional reforms, involving Treaty change or not, are necessary when a further enlargement of the Union will take place in the near future. It focuses on three main themes: the Union’s decision-making capacity; forms of differentiated integration; and the question on how to ensure respect by all member states for the Union’s fundamental values.

Autor externo

Bruno DE WITTE, Professor of European Union law, Maastricht University & European University Institute

Countering hybrid threats: EU and the Western Balkans case

06-09-2018

The aim of the workshop, held on 26 February 2018, was to assess and discuss the EU’s approach to hybrid threats in its neighbourhood using the Western Balkans as a case study, in the context of the extensive use of propaganda by Russia and its meddling into several elections and in the aftermath of the 2014 events in Ukraine and the Russian annexation of Crimea. The first speaker, Jean-Jacques Patry, presented the concept of hybrid threat at various levels and the EU approach and measures to tackle ...

The aim of the workshop, held on 26 February 2018, was to assess and discuss the EU’s approach to hybrid threats in its neighbourhood using the Western Balkans as a case study, in the context of the extensive use of propaganda by Russia and its meddling into several elections and in the aftermath of the 2014 events in Ukraine and the Russian annexation of Crimea. The first speaker, Jean-Jacques Patry, presented the concept of hybrid threat at various levels and the EU approach and measures to tackle it, particularly in the Western Balkans. The second speaker, Nicolas Mazzucchi, delivered a presentation on Russia’s declining influence in the Western Balkans (on behalf of Isabelle Facon, who authored the briefing but could not attend the workshop) and added some of his own analysis on energy and cyber issues. The presentations were followed by a debate with members of the Security and Defence Committee of the European Parliament.

Autor externo

Isabelle FACON, Nicolas MAZZUCCHI, Jean-Jacques PATRY

The effectiveness and visibility of EU funding in the Western Balkan countries with a special focus on the cross-border cooperation

16-08-2018

This briefing considers the effectiveness and visibility of EU funding in the Western Balkans, Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) in particular. CBC is reported to have enhanced relations between neighbouring countries at central and regional levels and it has reportedly helped prepare local authorities for eventual management of EU funds. Visibility is reported to be good but it is not known how this translates into public awareness and understanding of EU funding. With IPA II, there is increased emphasis ...

This briefing considers the effectiveness and visibility of EU funding in the Western Balkans, Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) in particular. CBC is reported to have enhanced relations between neighbouring countries at central and regional levels and it has reportedly helped prepare local authorities for eventual management of EU funds. Visibility is reported to be good but it is not known how this translates into public awareness and understanding of EU funding. With IPA II, there is increased emphasis on outcome monitoring and evaluation, and on visibility and communication. The effects of these and other changes remain to be seen.

Autor externo

Blomeyer & Sanz ; Ms Elsa Perreau ; Mr Roderick Ackermann

Women in the Western Balkans: Gender equality in the EU accession process

18-07-2018

Equality between women and men, or gender equality, is a fundamental right and a common value, recognised by the EU. It has been a component of the European integration project from its outset. Enshrined in the EU Treaties, gender equality forms part of the accession conditions with which candidate and potential candidates from the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia) have to comply. Investing in gender equality ...

Equality between women and men, or gender equality, is a fundamental right and a common value, recognised by the EU. It has been a component of the European integration project from its outset. Enshrined in the EU Treaties, gender equality forms part of the accession conditions with which candidate and potential candidates from the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia) have to comply. Investing in gender equality, however, is essential not only as an EU requirement, but for an equal society. Although progress has been noted in these countries as regards gender equality, more work is still required. Equal opportunities would allow EU candidate countries to better tap into the potential and skills of women, and underpin achievements in areas such as economic growth, employment and social cohesion, as well as in peace-building. As part of their preparation for an EU future, the Western Balkan countries have taken steps to advance women's rights in recent years. These include adopting or amending relevant legislation (e.g. criminal and labour laws), elaborating national strategies and action plans, and establishing institutional mechanisms to carry out and monitor relevant policies. Nevertheless, promoting gender equality is often sidelined, and the action taken in this respect is insufficient. Ensuring equality between women and men remains 'unfinished business' in a region where traditional gender roles are deep-rooted and social attitudes and lack of awareness of women's rights are at the core of the problem. This Briefing aims to highlight the EU's efforts to promote gender equality as part of EU enlargement policy, and the way the EU strives to mainstream equality across the board. It also aims to cast light on some major challenges that women face in the Western Balkans, such as their weaker roles in economy and politics, and widespread gender-based violence. This follows up the June 2017 briefing on 'Rights and empowerment of women in the Western Balkans'.

Priority Dossiers under the Austrian EU Council Presidency

29-06-2018

Austria will hold the EU Council Presidency from July to December 2018. Its presidency comes at the end of the Trio Presidency composed of Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria. The last time Austria held the Council Presidency was in 2006. A EUROPE THAT PROTECTS is the motto Austria has chosen for its Presidency. Austria considers that there have been several crises in recent years that have given rise to mistrust in the EU amongst European citizens. This mistrust needs to be addressed. To this end, the ...

Austria will hold the EU Council Presidency from July to December 2018. Its presidency comes at the end of the Trio Presidency composed of Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria. The last time Austria held the Council Presidency was in 2006. A EUROPE THAT PROTECTS is the motto Austria has chosen for its Presidency. Austria considers that there have been several crises in recent years that have given rise to mistrust in the EU amongst European citizens. This mistrust needs to be addressed. To this end, the Austrian Presidency has announced three main priorities for its term in office: security, competitiveness and stability. On security, it intends to focus on the fight against illegal migration, by securing Europe's external borders, and on the reform of the Common European Asylum System. On competitiveness, it will work on matters related to the digital single market, specifically digitalisation. On stability, it has announced its intention to work towards EU accession of the Western Balkan countries.

Western Balkans [What Think Tanks are thinking]

04-05-2018

The European Union’s planned enlargement into the Western Balkans has recently drawn increased attention. In February 2018, the European Commission released its new enlargement strategy, giving a credible accession perspective to the region. The latest impetus came last month, when the Commission proposed opening entry talks with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Presenting the 2018 Communication on the EU enlargement policy to the European Parliament, Commission President Jean-Claude ...

The European Union’s planned enlargement into the Western Balkans has recently drawn increased attention. In February 2018, the European Commission released its new enlargement strategy, giving a credible accession perspective to the region. The latest impetus came last month, when the Commission proposed opening entry talks with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Presenting the 2018 Communication on the EU enlargement policy to the European Parliament, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the EU needed to eventually accept new members from the Western Balkans to avoid the risk of a new war in the region. Many EU Member States insist that before enlarging, the EU must implement internal reforms. Future members must meet many tough entry criteria. From the Western Balkans, only Croatia has so far joined the EU, in 2013. Accession talks continue with Montenegro and Serbia. Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are official membership candidates, while Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a potential candidate country, along with Kosovo. This note offers links to reports and commentaries from some major international think-tanks and research institutes on EU enlargement and Western Balkans. More reports on the topic can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’, published in October 2017.

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