What the Refugee Crisis Reveals about EU Integration of the Western Balkans

The refugee crisis dominates the policy debates on the Western Balkans today. While there are sound and pressing reasons for this, the all-important European perspective of a region where Europe can make all the difference, must not be neglected.

The Hague Institute, The European Fund for the Balkans, The Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group, and the Austrian Embassy to the Netherlands convened a panel to discuss the state of the European integration of the countries in the region in the aftermath of the 2015 European Commission Progress Reports, and inter alia, address:

  • The need to include the W.B. Countries in finding a solution to the refugee flows;
  • The risks of these issues having long term negative repercussions on bilateral relations-border regimes for the WB;
  • The need to not overlook domestic reforms for the sake of geostrategic convenience; Berlin process as a format, focus on bilateral and youth cooperation;
  • The need to keep enlargement on track;
  • The question whether the enlargement process driven by Brussels has become too technical rather than transformative- if we have somehow lost the basics of the enlargement with the respect of rule of law, freedom of media, and democratic governance;
  • What the EU can do through the enlargement process to further incentivize reforms.


  • Mr. Thijs van der Plas, Deputy Director General for European Cooperation, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Mr. Lawrence Meredith, Head of Unit, DG for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission
  • Dr. Florian Bieber, Director of the Centre for Southeast European Studies, the University of Graz
  • Ms. Hedvig Morvai, Director of the European Fund for the Balkans
  • Moderator: Mr. Nikola Dimitrov, Distinguished Fellow at The Hague Institute


Further Reading

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