Support for further development of the model of the Western Balkans staged accession to the EU

From September 2022 until June 2023, European Policy Centre (CEP – Belgrade) and the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS – Brussels) were implementing a project called “Support for further development of the model of the Western Balkans staged accession to the European Union“.

The essence of the Project was focusing on operationalising the Model of staged accession, co-designed by CEP Belgrade and CEPS Brussels. Originally announced in July 2021, published in October of the same year and further clarified in a follow-up paper in January 2022, the Model has so far inspired numerous cross-European debates, and gained support from various members of the expert community as well as policymakers. Although it has had a promising start, it has yet to receive recognition from the EU institutions and wider support from the EU member states. Finding consensus on such an out-of-the-box solution becomes all the more warranted at the time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine has additionally highlighted the imperative for the EU to fully embrace the Western Balkans and cement its geopolitical footprint on the region. In order to make a breakthrough and overcome the status quo, this Project aimed to further contribute to developing a fully robust and operational model of staged accession to the EU. In order to achieve the set goal, the Project supported the research and analysis needed to develop a series of 14 issue papers tackling the issues determined as weak points and gaps in the Model, based on the feedback obtained from stakeholders during the first advocacy efforts conducted by the partner organisations that designed the Model. Therefore, the following issue papers developed:

  • Six (6) issue papers on potential application of the staged accession model in each of the countries in the region, with a focus on the political and economic specificities of each WB country, the potential implementation dynamics at national level, the stakeholder analysis, as well as the analysis of opportunities and risks that should be considered in the context of the potential model application.
  • Analysis and a visual presentation of how the new model fits with the revised (2020) EU enlargement methodology.
  • An issue paper on legal implications and requirements for the implementation of the staged accession model.
  • An issue paper on options, opportunities and implications of introducing elements of advanced policy integration (how it combines with the staged accession model).
  • An issue paper on financial implications of the staged accession model on the EU budget, as well as on the on acceding countries’ budgets.
  • An issue paper on funding instruments, arrangements, capacities and conditionalities to be applied.
  • An issue paper on the staged accession model in relation to the regional cooperation initiatives (primarily with regard to the Berlin Process and the Common Regional Market, as well as links with the Open Balkans initiative).
  • An issue paper on the governance of the new model, with focus on reversibility mechanisms.
  • An issue paper on the management of bilateral disputes between EU member states and acceding countries and on the role of regional reconciliation in the application of the new model.

The development of issue papers was a key part of the project, which should enable the full elaboration of the Staged Accession Model 2.0 and showcase its application in practice.

During its implementation, the core team also counted on the valuable expertise of prominent regional researchers, as well as individual members of the Think for Europe Network (TEN), such as the European Policy Institute (EPI – Skopje), Institute Alternative (IA – Podgorica), and Foreign Policy Initiative Bosnia and Herzegovina (FPI BH – Sarajevo).

The Project was funded by the Open Society Foundations (OSF).

Contact person: Ljubica Kovačević, Project Manager (

All publications published within the project you can find on special page The Initiative for a Staged accession to the EU.

Events held within the project:

  1. Workshop on Staged accession model

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