Western Balkans is a term that refers to seven countries in Southern and Eastern Europe: Republic of Albania, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Croatia, and Republic of Serbia (Bugajski, 2019). This report aims to analyse Russian and EU influence on Western European countries, also taking into account China's growing engagement in the region and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Lastly, in light of these considerations, the paper provides some insights into the strategy the EU adopts in the Western Balkans.
In the context of the EU and NATO’s eastern enlargement, the need to enhance military cooperation in a post-conflict society like the Balkans has been introduced as a fundamental perspective to ensure peacebuilding and restore security in the region. Despite working towards full NATO and EU memberships in recent years, the defence environment and national shrinking budgets have delayed the Balkans’ objective of fulfilling the requirements needed to achieve a collective defence and military cooperation between armed forces.
As stability in the Western Balkans is a priority for EU policymakers, it is necessary to examine the causes of military expansion in the region, and the effects of the phenomenon for the EU accession process.