In the wake of the violent conflicts that marked the recent history of the Western Balkans region, the EU considers it a priority to promote the development of peace, stability, prosperity and freedom in the South Eastern European countries of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo.
In fact, in EU documents, Macedonia and Kosovo do not even appear under those names: Macedonia is referred to as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" due to a dispute over the country's name, which is identical to a Greek province. The former Serbian province of Kosovo is referred to in the report as "Kosovo under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244/99" because the country's unilateral independence has not been recognised by Greece, Spain, Slovakia, Romania and Cyprus.
Croatia is discussed in a separate LinksDossier on account of the advanced stage of negotiations with the country. The framework for the EU's approach is the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP), which is designed to encourage and support domestic reform processes. In the long run, SAP offers these countries the prospect of full integration into the EU's structures, provided that certain political and economic conditions are met.
The Lisbon European Council of March 2000 stated that signing Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs) with Western Balkan countries should be considered a key step on the road to full membership. During the fifth EU enlargement, the pre-accession legal base was called 'Europe Association Agreements'. The assistance programme for the Western Balkans is called CARDS (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation), while for the countries of the fifth enlargement, the programme was PHARE.
The Thessaloniki EU Council of 19-20 June 2003 reconfirmed the EU membership persective of the Western Balkans and decided to strengthen political cooperation, enhance institution-building and implement further trade measures to promote economic growth.
The European Union's current enlargement process is taking place against the backdrop of a deep and widespread recession, with the financial and economic crises affecting both the EU and the enlargement countries themselves, according to the 2009-2010 Enlargement Strategy, published on 14 October 2009.