Joining the club – or not? Balkan states seek a ‘European perspective’

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  • Today we’re looking outside of the European Union to a region that’s experienced war, major political upheaval and economic change in the last 30 years: the Western Balkans. We’re talking about Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. One of these countries – Croatia – is already a European Union member; the others are all at various stages of trying to join. There’s been a knockback, though: Albania and North Macedonia had been expecting to get the green light for the formal accession process to begin in 2019 but have been told they’ll have to wait.

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    In This Story: Albania

    Albania, officially the Republic of Albania, is a country in Southeast Europe on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea. It shares land borders with Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east, Greece to the south and maritime borders with Greece, Montenegro and Italy to the west. It is regarded as being within the Balkan region.

    Geographically, Albania displays varied climatic, geological, hydrological, and morphological conditions, defined in an area of 28,748 km2 (11,100 sq mi). It possesses significant diversity with the landscape ranging from the snow-capped mountains in the Albanian Alps as well as the Korab, Skanderbeg, Pindus and Ceraunian Mountains to the hot and sunny coasts of the Albanian Adriatic and Ionian Sea along the Mediterranean Sea.

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  • In This Story: Balkans

    The Balkans , also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian–Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea in the northwest, the Ionian Sea in the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south, the Turkish Straits in the east, and the Black Sea in the northeast. The term has acquired a stigmatized and pejorative meaning related to the process of Balkanization, and hence the preferred alternative term used for the region is Southeast Europe.

    Entirely within the Balkan Peninsula: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia.

    Mostly or partially within the Balkan Peninsula: Croatia, Greece, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey.

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  • In This Story: Croatia

    Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia, is a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe on the Adriatic Sea.

    Croatia was first internationally recognized as an independent state on 7 June 879 during the reign of Duke Branimir. On 25 June 1991, Croatia declared independence and the Croatian War of Independence was fought for four years following the declaration.

    A sovereign state, Croatia is a republic governed under a parliamentary system. It is a member of the European Union, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the World Trade Organization and is a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean.

    Croatia is classified by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Croatia provides social security, universal health care, and tuition-free primary and secondary education.

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    France is a republic and the largest Western European nation. Through expansion and colonisation in the 17th and 18th centuries France became a great power and still retains territories around the world. It has a seat on the UN security council and is the world’s fourth most wealthy country with a high standard of living and strong cultural identity.

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  • In This Story: Montenegro

    Montenegro is a Balkan country with rugged mountains, medieval villages and a narrow strip of beaches along its Adriatic coastline. The Bay of Kotor, resembling a fjord, is dotted with coastal churches and fortified towns such as Kotor and Herceg Novi. Durmitor National Park, home to bears and wolves, encompasses limestone peaks, glacial lakes and 1,300m-deep Tara River Canyon.

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  • In This Story: North Macedonia

    North Macedonia (Macedonia until February 2019), officially the Republic of North Macedonia, is a country in Southeast Europe. It gained independence in 1991 as one of the successor states of Yugoslavia. It constitutes approximately the northern third of the larger geographical region of Macedonia. Skopje, the capital and largest city, is home to a quarter of the country’s 2.06 million population. The majority of the residents are ethnic Macedonians, a South Slavic people. Albanians form a significant minority at around 25%, followed by Turks, Romani, Serbs, Bosniaks, and Aromanians.

    The country became a member of the United Nations in April 1993, but as a result of a dispute with Greece over the name “Macedonia”, it was admitted under the provisional description “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (abbreviated as “FYR Macedonia” or “FYROM”). In June 2018, Macedonia and Greece resolved the dispute with an agreement that the country should rename itself “Republic of North Macedonia”. This renaming came into effect in February 2019.

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  • In This Story: Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Bosnia and Herzegovina, sometimes called Bosnia–Herzegovina and often known informally as Bosnia, is a country in South and Southeast Europe, located within the Balkans. Sarajevo is the capital and largest city.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered by Serbia to the east, Montenegro to the southeast, and Croatia to the north and southwest. It is not entirely landlocked; to the south it has a narrow coast on the Adriatic Sea, which is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) long and surrounds the town of Neum.

    The inland Bosnia region has a moderate continental climate, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. In the central and eastern interior of the country the geography is mountainous, in the northwest moderately hilly, and in the northeast predominantly flatland. The smaller southern region, Herzegovina, has a Mediterranean climate and mostly mountainous topography.

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    Serbia, officially the Republic of Serbia, is a landlocked country situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe in the southern Pannonian Plain and the central Balkans.

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