The Road to Thessaloniki: Cohesion and the Western Balkans
In the paper the issues with regard to application of the European regional policy to the Western Balkan countries are discussed. The paper offers analysis of possible ways and means of the policy in question. As the Western Balkan states face other threats and opportunities than those existed several years ago, the European policy instruments shall be adapted to meet the new challenges associated with the Western Balkans' economic and social cohesion into EU. So, the EU in cooperation with the European Commission shall concentrate their efforts on bringing out a substantial reform in the region.The actual challenge is increasing the impact of European aid to the Western Balkans by introduction of new auxiliary strategies based on the experience and procedures of the European regional development policy.The main idea promoted by the paper is that at the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003 the EU shall formally incorporate cohesion as a guiding principle of the EU policy towards the region.The document includes the history of successful application of the regional policy in various countries taking into account the peculiarities of every of them. The accent is given to the fact that the EU policy seeks to improve long-term growth performances of the recipient countries by a number of instruments and operational principles. The paper gives the overview of the Western Balkans' structural problems, comments the new accession category ('accession without negotiation') and considers its applicability to the Western Balkans. The three benchmarks on the basis of which the success of the Thessaloniki Summit could be evaluated are presented as a conclusion: A pledge to make cohesion an explicit EU objective in the Western BalkansA commitment to applying lesson from cohesion policy in the EU and the candidate countries to the Western BalkansA commitment to sustaining assistance levels so that the gap between present candidate countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, and countries of the Western Balkans does not widen further.