A New Transatlantic Approach for the Western Balkans

Time for Change in Serbia, Kosova, and Bosnia-Hercegovina

For the past decade, accession to the European Union (EU) has become both the journey and the final destination for peace and democracy in the Western Balkans. EU political and economic engagement in the region has had a profound and positive influence, from encouraging the rule of law, human rights, and economic reform, to establishing a regional dialogue. The United States has also been a key player in building a stable future in the Western Balkans. Combined, the EU and the United States have provided close to $2.2 billion in assistance to Bosnia and Hercegovina, Serbia and Kosova since 2009; most of the investment has focused on developing a civil society and an accountable government.

Despite these significant investments, past transatlantic policy approaches are no longer able to overcome the growing list of regional challenges that threaten to stall if not roll back progress toward European integration. Although the EU bureaucratically continues to support the integration of the Western Balkans, European political leaders offer no new enlargement narrative as they find themselves overwhelmed by a political and institutional dilemma fueled by the European sovereign debt and banking crises and by the bureaucratic consolidation following ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Based on extensive interviews and discussions with policy makers and analysts in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Belgrade, Prishtina, Brussels, and Washington, this report offers recommendations to American and European policymakers for a new transatlantic paradigm for two of the most significant challenges in the Western Balkans, Bosnia-Hercegovina as well as Serbia and Kosova. While it reflects on current and at times opposing U.S. and EU assistance strategies toward development and democratic reform, the report recommends a new, twenty-first century, transatlantic policy playbook for the Western Balkans infused with a realistic and long-term vision for the region.

Heather A. Conley

Mihaela David, Terry Toland

Janusz Bugajski