The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the strong interdependencies and vulnerability of the EU, especially when in competition with other external actors. On the other hand, the slow pace of reforms and the increasingly uncertain domestic context, coupled with the growing influence of external actors and the EU’s own internal difficulties and divergent positions of the Member States have complicated the enlargement environment.
However, starting with the “geopolitical Commission” led by President Ursula von der Leyen and in light of so many challenges, the Western Balkans are in the spotlight again, for both the EU and other external actors, such as Russia and China.
The paper focuses on the political and economic implications of the actions of two external actors (Russia and China) in correlation with the process of strengthening EU strategic autonomy, taking into account the complementarity between the security and the economic dimensions, as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine and its spill over effect in the Western Balkans that need to be approached separately, considering the vast implications and potential disruptive effect on the security and stability of the region.
On the EU side, starting with the revised enlargement methodology (2020), aimed at boosting the enlargement process more predictably and dynamically, a credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans has been re-established, even more so, that the revised methodology was followed by a series of processes aimed at promoting investment and socio-economic integration for the region, Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans alongside with its Green and Digital Agenda being among them.
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