Jean Monnet Chair: Dr Milenko Petrovic

The role of the EU accession process in the Europeanisation of the post-communist Western Balkans and its relations with New Zealand

 

The region of South-Eastern Europe or the Balkans is comprised of ten relatively small countries all of which – except for Greece – fell under communist rule after the Second World War and had effectively no political, economic or cultural relations with New Zealand during their communist past. Following the collapse of the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and the opening of the enlargement process of the European Union in this region, three post-communist states from the Balkans – Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia – joined the EU by 2013 while all their neighbours have expressed a strong desire to follow the pathway of these three. Currently, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and as of very recently (July 2014) Albania hold the status of official EU candidates while the remaining two – Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have a longer way to go and are still considered as only potential candidates for EU membership.

However, nearly two decades after the EU launched the so-called Stabilization and Association Process and renewed its offer for accession and a potential “EU future” to the post-communist countries of the Western Balkans, the level of consolidation of democratic institutions and general socio-political stability achieved in these countries can hardly be considered satisfactory. The level of corruption, respect for the rule of law, freedom of the media and general indicators of achieved democratization in the Western Balkan states are still significantly behind those achieved in the post-communist states which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. Indeed in some countries, particularly in Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina they show a clear tendency of worsening. As a result, New Zealand’s political, economic, cultural, trade and tourist relations with all the post-communist Balkan states have remained marginal at best. However, some positive recent trends, especially in relations with the new EU member states from the region of post-communist Europe indicate that there is potential for significant improvement of all types of relations between New Zealand and the Balkan states whose combined population (despite their relatively small size) more than doubles that of Australia (which is the NZ main trade partner).

These will be further critically analysed and specified by this Chair focussing on the two main research questions:

• What are the main remaining obstacles for the Western Balkans’ accession to the EU and how soon can they be overcome?
• How and which aspects of NZ relations with the Western Balkan states could be improved in the near future?