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Enlarging the EU further eastwards : the prospective EU membership of the Western Balkans

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2006
Özdemir, Burcu
The main aim of this thesis is to analyze EU-Western Balkans relations with regard to the prospective EU membership of the Western Balkans, and to make an analysis of the EU’s Western Balkans enlargement strategy and the scope of membership conditionality imposed on the Western Balkans from post Dayton period (1995) to present (2006). This thesis examines how the EU membership conditionality worked in the Western Balkans’ preparatory stages for pre-accession, and to what extent it is different from the CEE enlargement process. Lastly, considering the discussions on rediscovered absorption capacity and the commitment of EU for further eastward enlargements after the CEE enlargement of 2004, it is looked into whether there has been a shift in EU’s Western Balkans strategy. This thesis argues that the dominant factor determining the dynamics of the EU-Western Balkans relations are preferences, priorities and internal dynamics of the EU. The comparison between the CEE’s and Western Balkans’ EU integration process reveals that EU tailored a long term and flexible enlargement strategy with increasing conditionality within SAP framework for the Western Balkans. Hence as long as the EU does not feel a sense of urgency straining the stability and EU integration of the region, a motivation for presenting an immediate enlargement platform will not emerge. In this sense, after the CEE enlargement, EU rediscovered its absorption capacity as a main membership condition and further differentiated the regional countries in terms of their own merits in fulfilling EU’s conditionality and standards.