EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) facilitating the enlargement process of Western Balkans
This paper examines the complementarities between the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian macro-region (EUSAIR) and the enlargement process to the Western Balkan countries participating in the EUSAIR. It analyses the EUSAIR and the relevant EU documents, and explores the potential contribution of the EUSAIR to the WB integration process with a series of 37 in-depth interviews. Finally, it makes a number of policy recommendations in this field. The paper highlights the assets that the EUSAIR may offer the enlargement process, such as: its horizontal cooperation; a regional dimension that connects the WB to the EU; the convergence of interests between member states and non-member states on enlargement; its cooperative nature; its capacity-building contribution; the emphasis on territorial cooperation and its inclusive approach. The paper then shows how the EUSAIR may contribute to the enlargement process by: easing the adoption of the acquis communautaire in the WB countries; fostering administrative capacity with grounded, evidence-based policies, generating cohesion competencies in the WB countries; helping the implementation of EU policies and strategies beyond EU borders; offering a framework where different levels, processes, strategies, and funds may converge; promoting a strong involvement of stakeholders and participatory policy-making that increase the accountability of governments and consolidate democracy.