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The Role of EU Integration in Accelerating Structural Reforms in the Western Balkans: Evidence, Theory and Policy

Fatmir Besimi and Vassilis Monastiriotis ()

LEQS – LSE 'Europe in Question' Discussion Paper Series from European Institute, LSE

Abstract: Integration with the European Union has been an important driver of economic, political and social transformation in the Western Balkans. In recent years, however, the pace of structural reforms in the region has decelerated and the trend of economic catch-up seen in the 2000s has not resumed after the slowdown of the global economic crisis. This has coincided – at least temporally, if not causally – with a ‘temporary freeze’ in the EU’s enlargement towards the region. Against this backdrop, this paper seeks to investigate the role of EU conditionality on economic reforms and convergence in the Western Balkans. To do so, it provides original, albeit descriptive, empirical evidence showing a strong link between EU-related structural reforms (towards the Copenhagen Criteria) and economic growth; and subsequently presents an analytical model demonstrating the mechanisms of policy decisions for reforms under EU conditionality. The model assumes away sectoral interests, policy uncertainty and coordination problems, allowing the analysis to focus specifically on the tension between two objectives: the pursuit of EU accession, through the implementation of jointly agreed reforms, and the accommodation of domestic policy concerns (maintaining policy stability and public support). Our results unveil a policy dilemma for the EU, having to choose between maximising the reform effort and minimising non-compliance. Drawing on this model, we discuss extensively the policy options that the EU faces in trying to enhance the reform performance, growth trajectories and, ultimately, European perspective of the countries in the region.

Keywords: Structural reforms; European integration; Political Economy; Economic convergence (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-fdg and nep-tra
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