The European Union and integration challenges in the Balkans
The Balkans represent an interesting neighbouring region for the EU from geographic as well as from political and historical perspectives. Following Slovenia´s accession to the Union in 2004 and since the launch of the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) in 2000, only Croatia has become an EU Member State in July 2013. All the other Balkan countries have the prospect of becoming Member States and are bilaterally engaged with the EU through Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) (i.e. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia). On its way toward EU membership, each country undergoes individual review processes to meet the reform requirements and comply with the so-called EU acquis. In addition, challenges which reflect to a large extent the socio-economic, political, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of the Balkans have to be addressed and overcome. In its attempts at supporting a transformation toward political and socio-economic stability in the Balkans, the EU is therefore faced with a high degree of complexity.
Research should include stock-taking of existing relations between the EU and each of the countries in the Balkans as well as between these countries inter se. It should explicitly adopt the perspective of the examined countries so as to promote the understanding within the EU of the region its history and challenges. Key issues such as socio-economic and democratic development, identity politics, challenges of state building, linguistic and cultural diversity, ethnic conflicts as well as gender equality and migration should be addressed. Moreover, research should examine if and how scientific cooperation and the mobility of researchers can contribute to an increased understanding between EU actors and the countries and people of the region and to addressing societal challenges of shared concern. The role of macro-regional strategies (e.g. the EU Strategy for the Danube Region) and of other strategic powers in this region, like the USA, Russia and Turkey, should also be analysed. Based on the research findings, EU policy options vis-à-vis each country in the Balkans and the region as a whole should be assessed, taking into account the broader geo-strategic environment.
Broad participation of partners from the Balkan countries in proposals submitted to this call is strongly encouraged.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1.5 and 2.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Research should allow for a comprehensive understanding of the Balkans, taking into account the current state of each country’s relations with the EU as well as the cultural, political and socio-economic conditions in the region. By adopting both an inside-out and an outside-in perspective on the EU's relations with the actors in this region, research should also enable a critical assessment of the Union's external policy - its overarching strategy, the tools it employs and their impacts - vis-à-vis the individual Balkan countries and the region as a whole. Research findings can ultimately be expected to identify best practices and shape the EU's enlargement policy and strategies vis-à-vis this region and to possibly include recommendations on how to further enhance their effectiveness for the benefit of both the Balkans and the EU.
 This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with the UNSC 1244 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo Declaration on Independence. Negotiations to conclude a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo started in 2013.