This article is the English version of Pierre Mirrel,
« Union européenne-Balkans occidentaux : les illusions perdues ? », published in Politique étrangère, Vol. 87, Issue 4, 2022.

Photographie de fond par Tetiana Shyshkina (Unsplash) représentant le drapeau de l'Union européenne (bleu, étoiles jaunes). Au premier plan, couverture du numéro 4/2022 du numéro de Politique étrangère.

“Undermined by years of mutual ignorance, deceit, and disrespect, the Balkans’ EU accession process has finally succumbed to both European and Balkan leaders’ populist, short-sighted policies.” This remark expresses the frustrations in the Balkans after Bulgaria again vetoed opening accession negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia on June 22, 2022, when the European Council was due to recognize the candidacies of Ukraine and Moldova the following day.

The opening of these negotiations was finally decided in July 2022. All the Balkans had been given the status of “potential candidates” for membership at the Feira European Council in June 2000; the “European perspective” promised at the Thessaloniki summit in June 2003 was therefore not very successful. This is the paradox of the last twenty years: limited European integration in the face of incomplete stabilization. The legacy of the war has not yet been settled, but has turned into a war of words, between ethno-nationalism and victimization, distant from the criteria for accession to a Union that is itself rather lukewarm toward further enlargement. Pre-accession has become an anteroom of frustrations, with serious consequences.The Stabilization and Association Process (SAP) set the framework for the relationship of the European Union (EU) with the Western Balkans with a view to accession. The SAP, adopted at the 2000 Zagreb Summit and confirmed in Thessaloniki, adds the conditionality of stabilization to the 1993 Copenhagen criteria, to overcome the legacy of the wars: good neighborliness and regional cooperation, the return of refugees, and cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)…

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