Czech EU Presidency and the Western Balkans: The Story of a Sidelined Policy
The Czech Republic has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the EU in July 2022. Czech officials had initially proclaimed that a breakthrough in Western Balkans’ stalled EU integration process would be a top priority for the Czech Presidency. But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed the course of European politics, the announced Western Balkan priority gradually disappeared from the Czech political debate on the Presidency agenda.
The paper documents how the Czech political discourse on the Western Balkans changed during the year preceding the Presidency as a result of domestic and international political turmoil. Based on the comprehensive analysis of their statements, it identifies the key political actors of the Czech EU Presidency and reconstructs their positions on the Western Balkan agenda.
The findings show that the governmental actors who are politically driving the course of the Presidency and setting its agenda opted to invest the limited political capital into the strategic issues related to the war in Ukraine while sidelining the Western Balkan agenda.
However, the chapter also argues that the Czech EU Presidency cannot afford to avoid the volatile region completely in its agenda because of the anticipated turbulent developments in the Western Balkans. The Czech response to potential regional challenges is expected to be reactive and only pulled by external incentives rather than grounded in any profound political initiative for the region that could accelerate the Western Balkans’ stabilization and European integration.
The paper is part of an edited volume ‘Confronting Multiple Crises: Local and International Perspectives on Policy-Making in Kosovo’, written by an interdisciplinary group of authors and edited by leading scholars from Southeast Europe and beyond. The volume was published by Kosovo Foundation for Open Society as an outcome of the Kosovo Research and Analysis Fellowship program.