Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. Expanding the single market with(out) the EU enlargement. – II.1 EEA contribution. – II.2 CEECs transformative experience. – III. WB-EU economic integration and (limited) access to the single market. – III.1 SAP as a (new) frame of enlargement. – III.2 Way forward perspectives. – IV. Concluding remarks.
Abstract: The promised European future for the Western Balkans still seems to be distant and uncertain, in spite of the many geo-strategic, political, economic and security arguments in favour of completing the process of unification. On the one side, the European integration process through economic and political reforms should lead these countries to become EU members and set high expectations of what the prospects of membership should deliver in the region. On the other hand, the countries are still far from ready for membership while the EU political commitment is not accompanied by more tangible action which questions the credibility of enlargement policy. Over the recent years, there is a growing need for a renewed narrative to revive and sustain the incentives for the states of the Western Balkans to continue their European integration journey and overcome an apparent impasse over accession prospects. The main argument of this Article is whether the EU accession process with regard to the Western Balkans can be reinforced in a manner of a merit-based process that offers a credible goal by granting access to the EU single market as an interim accession goal that inspires real change, while reducing the sense that further EU enlargement is risky endeavour. In order to provide a relevant conclusion, the Article reviews the economic effects of previous rounds of enlargements and the relevant instruments employed towards the Western Balkans, to examine the plausible limitations and prospects.
Keywords: enlargement policy – Western Balkans – EU credibility – single market – economic integration – Europeanisation.
* PhD Candidate, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, email@example.com.