Asymmetrical economic & institutional changes in the Western Balkans: Cooperation with the European Union
The Western Balkans have historically been a poor area of Europe. The total population of the Western Balkans is 24.7 million. Ethnic differences of long standing have led to conflicts and to political and economic instability. Poverty and instability have combined to produce a vicious circle of institutional backwardness. Recent conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo have aggravated an already adverse economic situation. GDP in 1999 was substantially lower than that in 1989. The EU plans to enter into contractual relationships with all the Western Balkans in the form of Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAAs). The pacts are aimed at helping to establish economic and political stability, to implement institutional reforms, to practice regional free trade and cooperation and to privatize the economies of Western Balkans. These are also the presumed goals of the Western Balkans. This study focuses on a review of the progress made by the Western Balkans toward meeting the above stated challenges. A main conclusion is that the attainment of these goals has been asymmetrical for economic, political and institutional reasons.