The Migrant Crisis: A Catalyst for EU Enlargement?

Viewing the on-going migrant crisis through the broader framework of the EU’s enlargement policy, this policy brief uses the current respite in the arrival of refugees as an occasion to take stock of the developments over the past year and the lessons they hold for the EU’s engagement with its (potential) candidate states.

It focuses in particular on the Western Balkans, whose brief moment in the limelight of the refugee crisis has done little to foster more strategic thinking on how to lastingly stabilize the countries of the region, ensure their sustainable democratic transformation and assist their economic development.

This brief tackles the two dimensions of the migration crisis in the Balkans, in turn arguing that in both cases, the EU’s response has centered on fighting the symptoms, rather than on developing more long-term solutions.

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Besides, the perceived need for strong leaders dealing with the situation has enhanced the tendency of horse-trading of fundamental European values for geopolitical interests and stability. This approach threatens to erode the EU’s credibility as a normative power while doing little to resolve the underlying causes of the migrant crisis. Instead, what is needed is a strategic re-launch of EU enlargement policy that replaces the current autopilot mode with a decisive political commitment to successful transformation and tangible membership prospects for the Balkans region.

Nikola Dimitrov, a Distinguished Fellow of the Hague Institute for Global Justice, Natasha Wunsch, an Associate Fellow with the German Council on Foreign Relations, and Srdjan Cvijic, a senior policy analyst at the Open Society European Policy Institute are the authors of the latest Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group Policy Brief “The migrant crisis: a catalyst for EU enlargement?”.

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