Western Balkans

Integration and Democratisation of the Western Balkans: The Challenges Ahead

From 14-16 October, the ninth annual summit of the Berlin process will be held in Albanian Tirana where Western Balkan leaders will meet their European counterparts to discuss the future of EU integration and regional cooperation in Southeast Europe. The Berlin process was established in 2014 by European advocates of the Western Balkans' accession as a multilateral platform for high-level political cooperation within the region and with the EU. Its initial intention was to keep the European perspective of the region alive after it was damaged by a moratorium on enlargement set by the European Commission. Despite the ambitions and practical steps taken within the Berlin process, EU integration of the Western Balkans has further stagnated over the last decade and regional cooperation has been obstructed by unresolved regional disputes.

Considering this, the analysis identifies and discusses the key negative trends present in the region that all pose a principal challenge to democracy in the Western Balkans. The overview departs from domestic democratic deficits within political institutions, civil society, and media. Second, it discusses two problems of regional scope: unresolved disputes within and between states, and massive Westward migration. The analysis concludes with the broader geopolitical aspects and foreign influences that negatively affect the quality of democracy in the region, including Russian destabilizing influence, Chinese geoeconomics ambitions, and the EU’s loss of credibility.

Based on this overview, the analysis also suggests policy recommendations for all participants of the upcoming Berlin process summit – Western Balkan leaders, policymakers from the participating EU members, and representatives of the civic sector from the region. We believe that all these actors have an equal stake in the region’s democracy and its European perspective, which is the only viable geopolitical vision for stable and democratic Western Balkans.