Back to the Future for EU Enlargement: What can Ukraine learn from the Western Balkans?

The protracted, demotivating experience of the Western Balkans should serve as a template for Kyiv to avoid

5 December 2023

Ukraine and the EU can both learn from the Western Balkan experience on accession: regardless of the level of goodwill, determination towards EU membership and potential for change, difficult reforms within the bloc and candidate state can lead to a stalled membership process.

As the European Commission unveiled this year’s Enlargement Package, the journey of Western Balkan nations towards EU membership remains largely unchanged, with familiar calls for reform echoing in their progress reports. Ukraine, however, provides a glimmer of hope, with the EU poised to kickstart membership negotiations.

Beyond the initial excitement, this development should prompt reflection on the parallels between Ukraine and the Western Balkans, the EU’s evolving approach to enlargement and the lessons Ukraine can draw from the Western Balkans’ experiences.

Is Ukraine’s Membership a New Chapter for EU Enlargement?

Maintaining tradition, the European Commission presented today the latest Enlargement Package, detailing the slow and steady progress – or lack thereof – of the Western Balkans and Turkey in their pursuit of EU membership.

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Antonios Nestoras

Dr Antonios Nestoras is Deputy Director of the European Liberal Forum (ELF), and an adjunct professor at the Brussels School of Governance of the Free University of Brussels (VUB), where he teaches geopolitics and technopolitics. For more than 12 years in the academic, think-tank and European public administration fields, his work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, think-tank reports and EU media. He is chief editor of the Future Europe Journal and curates the Liberal Reads podcast. He holds a double PhD in Social and Political Science from VUB and the University of Antwerp and was awarded the Huygens Scholarship for International Talent for his graduate studies in the University of Leiden.

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