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7 September 2018

Western Balkans failing to converge with EU, say researchers

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Economic and social convergence between poorer and richer countries in the EU since the crisis is slowing and, in some cases, has gone into reverse, according to experts. Research articles in the latest issue of the SEER Journal for Labour and Social Affairs in Eastern Europe, which focus on the Western Balkans, find numerous causes for concern about the slow pace of ‘catch-up’ in the region.

This edition of the journal, which focuses on social and labour issues in the Eastern Europe, is based on discussions held at the EU-West Balkans Summit held on May 8th 2018 in Sofia, and contains warnings for EU policymakers about the pace and direction of the accession process.

A lack of economic convergence is particularly evident. Most countries of the western Balkans have not seen any increase in real wages since the crisis and in some countries the wage gap with the EU has increased. Although minimum wages exist in many countries these often do not cover the minimum subsistence level for families. Many countries are also suffering from poverty, high unemployment, low wages, corruption and migration of skilled workers. This is undermining the EU’s own ambitions for a smooth accession process and calls into question its attractiveness to future EU members, according to Béla Galgóczi, one of the journal’s editors: “Although the EU-Western Balkans Summit confirmed the region’s accession there is no concrete agenda and accession remains elusive and uncertain”, said Galgóczi.

One of the articles in the journal, by Christophe Solioz, also questions the extent to which the fall of the Berlin Wall marked a real turning point in the region’s fortunes, and warns that both sides remain unprepared for accession. Galgóczi, in his introduction, argues that “Europe is facing a ‘polycrisis’: a socio-economic crisis; an institutional and political crisis; and also a “crisis of imagination and trust”. He adds that the Western Balkans is unstable, economically and politically, and territorial disputes are not fully settled.

Other articles in the edition provide country-level analyses of the extent of democratization, developments in labour relations, human capital, and legal and women’s rights.

You can find more information about the SEER Journal for Labour and Social Affairs in Eastern Europe here.

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