Assessing Russian impact on the Western Balkan countries' EU accession: cases of Croatia and Serbia



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Tartu Ülikool


The matter of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans has become overshadowed by pressing issues such as Brexit, the rise of the radical right and international terrorism. Notwithstanding the pressure to address these issues accordingly, increasing tensions and ethnic outbursts across the Western Balkans are reason enough for the European Union to devote significant attention to accession talks. This thesis addresses the Western Balkan countries’ Europeanization process with consideration of Russia as an external actor. The inclinations of Western Balkan countries toward the EU incite Moscow to increase its presence in the region with the aim of diverting countries from the path to European integration. Drawing on the theory of liberal intergovernmentalism and a rational approach to European integration, the research argues that the rational and pragmatic impetus behind the Europeanization dynamic brings to the forefront long-term economic, security and geopolitical benefits for the Western Balkan countries. By assessing the candidate countries’ progress amid EU negotiations, the thesis suggests that the countries’ bilateral ties with Russia have an impact on the Europeanization process. This tendency is particularly visible in Chapter 31 Foreign, security, and defence policy of the acquis communautaire. The broader geopolitical framework comprises the multifaceted relationship between the EU and Russia that is crucial for understanding the dynamics of EU-Western Balkans-Russia triangle.