ISSUE: 2/2022

  • Volume 26
  • Number 2
  • 2022


Studia Europejskie –
Studies in European Affairs

ISSN: 1428-149X
e-ISSN: 2719-3780

Ccbync License


Articles published in the journal are under a Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial – No Derivatives 4.0 International License

The EU Integration Process of the Western Balkans in the Aftermath of 2015’s Refugee Crisis


The worst contemporary refugee crisis that occurred during the summer of 2015 challenged the basic values of the European Union. There had never been a time when the need for a consistent approach, both from the individual Member States and the EU as a whole, was more urgent. The Union’s response during 2015’s refugee crisis was unreliable, fragmented, and it largely affected the Western Balkan countries that are now aspiring to become EU Member States. This paper analyses how the EU’s response to the refugee crisis has affected and still affects the countries in the Western Balkans, which are all in different stages of their European integration. The refugee crisis created many challenges for the Western Balkan countries which are all weak democracies and which have unstable institutions. This paper also analyses the numerous domestic costs connected to thesecountries when faced with the refugee crisis. Finally, the paper argues that, although largely harmonised with the EU acquis, the legislative and institutional frameworks for migration management in Western Balkan countries need further adjustment.


Avramović, F. and Jovanović, I. (2015) “Serbia will take in some migrants, Vucic says”, BalkanInsight. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Bačić Selanec, N. (2015) “A Critique of EU Refugee Crisis Management: On Law, Policy and Decentralisation”, Croatian Yearbook of European Law and Policy. Vol. 11(1), pp. 73–114. DOI:

Benedetti, E. (2017) The Balkan Route of Illegal Migration and the Role of EU in Facing this Emergency: a Stimulus or a Brake for Enlargement? in Baldin S., Zago M. (eds.). Europe of Migrations: Policies, Legal Issues and Experiences. Trieste: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste.

Bieber, F. (2015) The refugee crisis underlines the absurdity of Western Balkans states being outside of the EU. London School of Economics. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Brsakoska-Bazerkoska, J. (2015) The EU and Macedonia’s political crisis – another date with history?, Commentary. No 23. European Policy Insstitute Network.

Brsakoska-Bazerkoska, J. (2017a) “The refugee relocation system in the EU and its implications to the countries on the Western Balkans route: the aftermath of the flawed reception conditions in the EU”, La Revue des droits de l’homme. DOI:

Brsakoska-Bazerkoska, J. (2017b) Balkan Schrodinger’s Cat: the Case of Macedonian Democracy. E-International Relations. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Brunovskis, A. and Surtees, R. (2019) “Identifying trafficked migrants and refugees along the Balkan route. Exploring the boundaries of exploitation, vulnerability and risk”. Crime Law Social Change. Vol. 72, pp. 73–86. DOI:

Carrera, S. et al. (2017) The European Border and Coast Guard, Addressing Migration and Asylum Challenges in the Mediterranean?. Report of a CEPS Task Force. Brussels: CEPS. Available at: (Access 1.06.2022).

Carrera, S. and Den Hertog, L. (2016) “A European Border and Coast Guard: What’s in a Name?”. CEPS Paper in Libert and Security in Europe. No. 88. Available at: (Access 1.06.2022).

Cocco, E. (2017) “Where is the European frontier? The Balkan migration crisis and its impact on relations between the EU and the Western Balkans”, European View. Vol. 16(2), pp. 293–302. DOI:

Communication from the Commission on a credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans (2018) COM/2018/065 final. Availble at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Council of the European Union (2003) The Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans – Moving towards European integration. Available at: (Access 1.06.2022).

DW (2019) Greece expects 100,000 more migrants in 2020. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

EEAS (2018) Strategy for the Western Balkans: EU sets out new flagship initiatives and support for the reform-driven region. Available at: agship%20initiatives%20and%20support%20for%20the%20reform-driven%20region (Access 15.04.2021).

European Commission (2017) ECHO Factsheet Serbia: Response to the Refugee Crisis, 2017. Available at: les/aid/countries/factsheets/serbia_en.pdf (Access 15.04.2021).

European Parliament Briefi ng (2016) The Western Balkans: Frontline of the migrant crisis, January 2016. Available at: (Access 1.06.2022).

European Parliamentary Research Service (2016a) Key laws that define regulate international protection in WB countries. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

European Parliamentary Research Service (2016b) Key laws that define regulate international protection in WB countries. Available at: ne-regulate-international-protectionin-wb-countries/?shared=email&msg=fail (Access 15.04.2021).

European Council (2018) EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016, in European Council Press Release 144/16 of 18 March 2016. Available at: (Access 1.06.2022).

Fredoom of the Press (2016) The Batlle for the Dominant Massage. Available at: CJTaqaqVgs0CFZcy0wodWeoGCw (Access 15.04.2021).

Frontex (2017) Risk analyse for 2017. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Gatta, F.L. (2019) “Migration and the Rule of (Human Rights) Law: Two ‘Crises’ Looking in the Same Mirror”. Croatian Yearbook of European Law and Policy. Vol. 15. DOI:

Hyndman, J. (2008) Confl ict, citizenship, and human security: geographies of protection in Cohen D. and Gilbert E. (eds.), War, Citizenship, Territory. London: Routledge.

Hyndman, J. (2012) “The geopolitics of migration and mobility”, Geopolitics. Vol. 17(2), pp. 243–255. DOI:

Huysmans, J. (2000) “The European Union and the securitization of migration”. Journal of Common Market Studies. Vol. 38(5), pp. 751–777. DOI:

Kirchner, M.J. and Nechev, Z. (2020) Global change starts at the doorstep: Why the Western Balkans matter for Ursula von der Leyen’s geopolitical Commission. Skopje: Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis”. Available at: (Access 1.06.2022).

Le Blond, J. (ed.) (2017) Refugees brave Serbia’s cold in hope of better future. Report for UNHCR. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Léonard, S. (2010) “EU border security and migration into the European Union: FRONTEX and securitisation through practices”, European Security. Vol. 19(2), pp. 231–254.

Longinović, T.Z. (2018) The Migrant Crypt: Cultural Translation Across the Balkans. London: Routledge. DOI:

Milan, C. (2018) “Refugees at the Gates of the EU: Civic Initiatives and Grassroots Responses to the Refugee Crisis along the Western Balkans Route”. Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies. Vol 21(1), pp. 43–60.

Nechev, Z. (ed.) (2020) Stimulating strategic autonomy: Western Balkans’ contribution for a shared European Future, Institute for Democracy. Skopje: Societas Civilis.

Pastore, F. (2018) “From Source to Corridor: Changing Geopolitical Narratives about Migration and EU-Western Balkans Relations”, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies. Vol. 21(1), pp. 11–26. (2019) Refugees and Migration in the Context of the Balkan Route – North Macedonia’s Discourse During 2020 Early General Elections. Available at:, and also (Access 15.04.2021).

Sardelić, J. (2017) “From Temporary Protection to Transit Migration: Responses to Refugee Crises Along the Western Balkan Route”, EUI Working Papers. 2017/35. DOI:

Save the Children in North Balcans (2020) Regional Overview Refugees and Migrants at the Western Balkans Route. Balkans Migration and Displacement Hub. July – September 2020. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Stojanović, N. (2015) “Kriza u mediteranskom susedstvu: test za migracionu politiku Evropske unije”. Medjunarodni problem – International Problems. Vol. 67(4), pp. 328–348.

Šelo Šabić, S. (2017) “The Impact of the Refugee Crisis in the Balkans: A Drift Towards Security”, Journal of Regional Security. Vol 12(1), pp. 51–74.

Šelo Šabić, S. and Borić, S. (2016) At the Gate of Europe: A Report on Refugees on the Western Balkan Route. Zagreb: Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Available at: (Access 1.06.2022).

Taleski, D. (2016) The Balkan’s Other Migrant Crisis. Available at: les/2020-02/05192016_FH_NIT_Balkans_fi nal_brief.pdf (Access 1.06.2022).

Trauner, F., and Neelsen, S. (2017) The Impact of the Migration Crisis on Political Dynamics in the Western Balkans. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Unijat, J. (ed.) (2019) “Common Western Balkan Migration Policy: Borders and Returns”. Regional Policy Paper. Group 484: Belgrade: Group 484. Available at: (access 1.06.2022).

Weber, B. (2017) The EU-Turkey Refugee Deal and the Not Quite Closed Balkan Route. Dialog Südeuropa. Available at: les/bueros/sarajevo/13436.pdf (access 1.06.2022).

Wunsch, N., and Dimitrov, N. (2016) The migrant crisis: a catalyst for EU enlargement? Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group. Available at: (Access 1.06.2022).

Youtube (2016) Speeches of Johannes Hahn. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Zaragoza-Cristiani, J. (2017) “Containing the Refugee Crisis: How the EU Turned the Balkans and Turkey into an EU Borderland”, The International Spectator. Vol. 52(4), pp. 59–75.

Zielonka, J. (2017) “The remaking of the EU’s borders and the images of European architecture”, Journal of European Integration. Vol. 39(5), pp. 641–656.

Zagreb Declaration (2020) Zagreb Declaration 6 May 2020. Available at: (Access 15.04.2021).

Language: English

Pages: 123-140

How to Cite:


Brsakoska-Bazerkoska, J. (2022) "The EU Integration Process of the Western Balkans in the Aftermath of 2015’s Refugee Crisis". Studia Europejskie – Studies in European Affairs, 2/2022, pp. 123-140. DOI: 10.33067/SE.2.2022.8