The Balkans’ next challenge: curb corruption

Belgrade, Feb. 26, 2018: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (C) on his Balkans tour, here with EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn (L), and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (source: dpa)
Belgrade, Feb. 26, 2018: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (C) on his Balkans tour, here with EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn (L), and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (source: dpa)
  • The EU unveiled a new accession strategy for the Western Balkans, but the criteria for admitting these states will not be relaxed
  • Fighting the corruption that permeates the region and democratizing governance systems are the West’s key goals
  • The stakes are high, as failed states in the region would endanger NATO’s southern flank

The Western Balkans are under pressure to enter a new transition. After nearly a quarter of a century of post-conflict policies, aimed at stability and good neighborhood practices, the European Union and the United States are jointly pushing for democratic governance in the region. Western powers want it anchored on stable institutions, efficient public administration and an unconstrained, independent judiciary. All those desirables cannot materialize, however, without first eradicating the deeply entrenched culture of bribery and political patronage in the Balkans.

Widespread corruption is a shared challenge for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. Elections failed to democratize and improve the way these countries are functioning. Their establishments have maintained a firm hold on the governments, recycling their power and, in effect, “capturing” the states, as a 2016 report for the European Council pointed out.

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