Regional Cooperation in EU-CEE and Lessons for the Western Balkans

Client/Funding Institution

Bertelsmann Stiftung


In our previous study “Pushing on a String? An evaluation of regional economic cooperation in the Western Balkans”, we concluded that a change in the EU’s strategy towards the Western Balkans is needed. The current strategy has failed to deliver regional economic integration and development, has resulted in very meagre progress towards full EU accession, and has generated huge disappointment and frustration in the region. With these conclusions as a starting point, in the current study we ask whether and how the successful example from the formerly communist countries that joined the EU between 2004 and 2013 (EU-CEE) can be replicated in the Western Balkans. More specifically, we investigate to what extent regional economic integration improved in EU-CEE after EU accession, identify the suspected reasons for this, and determine which lessons can be drawn from this experience for the Western Balkan economies. Our main finding is that the best way to foster regional economic integration and development in the Western Balkans would be through policies aimed at raising incomes. One way in which this can be achieved is by increasing the EU transfers for the region, for example, through full access to the EU budget, with the necessary conditionality attached.


June 2021 - May 2022

wiiw team Leader

Branimir Jovanović

wiiw Staff

Mahdi Ghodsi, Richard Grieveson, Doris Hanzl-Weiss, Mario Holzner, Zuzana Zavarská


External Publications

'Pushing on a String? An evaluation of regional economic cooperation in the Western Balkans' (by Richard Grieveson, Mario Holzner, Isilda Mara, David Pichler and Goran Vukšić), Bertelsmann Stiftung (Hrsg.), 2020

Related News

Countries covered: Balkan States, CESEE

Research Areas: Macroeconomic Analysis and Policy