All Western Balkan countries have been offered the prospect of EU membership. The Commission monitors their progress on the accession criteria along the same lines of the monitoring of candidate countries' compliance with these criteria. The Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs is the Commission service in charge of economic analysis and policy advice as regards these countries.
The EU membership prospect for Western Balkan countries
All the countries of the Western Balkans have the prospect of future EU membership, an objective endorsed by the European Council in Feira in June 2000 and confirmed by the European Council in Thessaloniki in June 2003. The European Council in June 2005 re-confirmed these existing commitments. Following the application for membership of Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the granting by the Council of candidate status to these two countries, there remain four Western-Balkan non-candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia (including Kosovo, under the UN mandate pursuing to Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council).
The Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP)
The SAP is the EU’s policy framework for the Western Balkan countries, all the way to their eventual accession. It pursues three aims: stabilisation and a swift transition to a market economy, the promotion of regional co-operation, and the prospect of EU accession. It helps these countries build their capacity to adopt and implement European standards, including the Community acquis, and international standards. Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which have been granted candidate country status, remain part of the SAP. The other countries of the Western Balkans are potential candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia including Kosovo (UN Security Council Resolution 1244).
The SAP is based on a progressive partnership, in which the EU offers a mixture of trade concessions (Autonomous Trade Measures), economic and financial assistance mainly in the form of technical assistance (CARDS Programme), and contractual relationships (Stabilisation and Association Agreements). Each country advances on the basis of the fulfilment of its commitments within the framework of the SAP.
The Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003 introduced an array of new instruments to support the reform process in the Western Balkan countries and to bring them closer to the EU. The most far-reaching of these new instruments are the European Partnerships, inspired by the Accession Partnerships for candidate countries. The first set of such European Partnerships was approved in 2004. By identifying short and medium-term priorities which the countries need to address, the European Partnerships help the countries with their reforms and preparations for future membership.
Economic assessment, monitoring, policy advice on non-candidate Western Balkan countries
DG ECFIN is the Commission service in charge of economic analysis and policy advice as regards non-candidate Western Balkan countries. This covers of a number of activities: