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In the early and mid-2000s, the prospect of EU accession and the global boom facilitated rapid economic recovery and boosted economic and institutional reforms in the Western Balkan region. The global financial crisis of 2007–2009 and the European crisis of 2010–2013 slowed the pace of economic growth and amplified high unemployment in the region. In addition, various unresolved legacies from past conflicts slowed the pace of reform and progress towards EU accession.

The European Commission’s February 2018 communication sets an indicative deadline (2025) for the two most advanced candidates – Serbia’s and Montenegro’s admission to the EU. This could incentivise all Western Balkan countries, including those candidates that have not yet started membership negotiations (Macedonia and Albania) and those waiting for candidate status (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo), to remove domestic political obstacles to EU accession, solve conflicts with neighbours, speed up reforms and accelerate economic growth.

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