Towards European Union or Regional Economic Area: Western Balkans at Crossroads

Gazmend Qorraj


The aim of the paper is to reflect upon the dilemma or whether the EU will
continue the integration process in the Western Balkans or backlash on regional
cooperation instruments and initiatives within the framework of the Western
Balkans. The Regional Economic Area (REA) is analyzed as the more recent policy
of the European Union for the remaining Balkan countries. It is crucial to analyze
the idea behind REA, starting from two main assumptions: first, the creation of
REA stemmed from EU internal challenges; and second, REA came up as a creative
EU approach in efforts to find a specific model for reforms in the Western Balkans
in the frame of regional institutions. The paper also discusses regional trade and
specifically the role of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) in coordinating
these initiatives in the Western Balkans. Taking into consideration the EU current
challenges as well as difficulties of the Western Balkan countries to overcome
the political and economic problems, then regional cooperation could appear as
an alternative to the EU integration process for the Western Balkans. The main
conclusion of this paper is that the Western Balkans needs the EU’s direct support,
in particular, since RCC and other regional instruments cannot enforce, support
and monitor the initiatives and reforms in the region.


Western Balkans, integration, cooperation, coordination, regional, enlargement

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