The Impact of Regional Organizations and Initiatives in the Western Balkans

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The goals of the paper titled The Actual Impact of Regional Organizations and Initiatives on Regional Cooperation/Integration and Good Neighborly Relations in the Western Balkans: Success and Limiting Factors are twofold.

First, it sheds light on the phenomenon on mushrooming regional organisations and initiatives in the Western Balkans against the background of ethnic disputes and the breakup of former Yugoslavia. Supported generously by the European Union and its drive to replicate its successful model of integration, some of them have contributed significantly to the re-establishment of stronger economic ties and compulsion for political cooperation especially regarding EU integration issues. However, others have been less successful and thus lost their initial rationale, but still provide opportunities to assemble the regional actors periodically. The paper will take a critical view over both, success and limiting factors and try to identify the drivers – the ways and steps through which the cooperation and integration aspirations might be advanced and their relevance sustained, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic and post-COVID-19 recovery. Since membership in the EU is a two-way process, this paper will also examine how existing regional frameworks helped or hindered the consolidation of priorities and capacities of the Western Balkan contracting parties (WB6).

Second, the paper will assess the contribution of these regional organizations and initiatives to the overall stabilisation course of the region, namely through the lenses of reconciliation, and good neighbourly relations. Despite the generally positive impression of a trend of improvement in cooperation within the Western Balkans, some important issues have remained open for decades and very frequent diplomatic exchanges between the countries only reaffirm the importance of their resolution. The paper will elucidate how regional organisations and initiatives might optimise their impacts in these politically delicate areas and which mechanisms, instruments, and good practices they may use to enhance effectiveness. 7 When it comes to the structure, the paper has five chapters. The Introduction provides a context for the understanding of significance of the regional cooperation in general, the reasons why regional cooperation stands high within the European Union priorities in the region, as well as the fact that it represents a part of the conditionalities the EU has defined for the region within the enlargement process. The short history and current developments within the leading regional organisations and initiatives are explained in the second chapter. The third chapter simultaneously elaborates and summarises the experiences of individual countries in the regional cooperation thus far and provides ground for the concluding part. Because of the impact Covid-19 has on the region and its proper functioning, a specific chapter reviews the state of regional cooperation during the years of the pandemic, and tries to understanding the potential and benefits that it might bring to the regional cooperation in the WB.

The research on the basis of which a critical overview of development of regional organisations was carried out, with the proposed recommendations, is based on a series of semi-structured interviews with the leading diplomats from the region, who are currently, or were previously, tasked with conceptualizing and implementing regional cooperation. In addition, these interviews included officials and staff of the most relevant regional organisations. Interviewees, accepted to be interviewed, on the condition of anonymity, therefore during citation the authors will reveal only their position and institution. The research was conducted in the summer 2021.

You can read the policy brief here:

The Impact of Regional Organizations and Initiatives in the Western Balkans

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