The EU’s Historic Role in Why Western Balkans Enlargement is Stuck

Many people agree that the European Union’s enlargement process is flawed. As a consequence, none of the aspiring EU members meet their targets on the path to membership on time and some do not meet them at all. While Europeans spent a lot of money, time and energy to improve life in the region for decades, it is equally true that Europeans made decisions that affected the Western Balkans negatively, too.

However, when European history is discussed in the context of the European Union, it is usually mainly about how the treaties were negotiated, how the European institutions developed, and about the vision of the leaders who envisaged the European Union. There are pages missing from the European history book. Arguably, this approach of not dealing with its own role, interests and past with the Western Balkans could be seen as having a negative impact on the enlargement policy the European Union is pursuing today. Empathy and a conscious approach towards the EU’s own role in addition to legitimate efforts to defend EU interests in the Balkans with peaceful means could be a positive contribution to the enlargement process and a deeper understanding between the member states and the aspiring members in the region.

The outcome of Teresa’s work as a Europe’s Futures Fellow 2020/21 will be neither a policy paper nor an academic article detailing everything that ever went wrong with EU decisions in the Western Balkans. Instead, the result will be materials that could become either a small book comprising and explaining a number of crucial moments in EU-Balkans history, or that could be used for teaching EU history.

Teresa Reiter

Teresa Reiter is a journalist by training and a foreign and security policy expert.

She reported on European and foreign affairs for various European media for almost a decade. Teresa then spent several years working as a policy advisor for NEOS, the liberal party in the Austrian Parliament. She covered foreign and European policy, migration, defence and development cooperation. In 2019 she stood as a candidate in the elections to the European Parliament to support the Austrian liberals’ strong pro-European position. Teresa is currently the Head of Communications at the European Forum Alpbach. Her deep interest and expertise in the Western Balkans and the EU’s enlargement policy in the region is reflected in much of her work.

Teresa holds degrees in German language and literature, journalism and international affairs from the University of Vienna, the Kingston University in London and the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna.