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The European Union Accession and Climate Change Policies in the Western Balkan Countries

Part of the Contributions to Economics book series (CE)


Democracy, economic development and even statehood itself are all less than secure in the Balkans, a region with a history of conflict. Now, as the countries of the region (Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo) strive for individual and collective stability, they face the additional challenges brought by climate change and do so against a background of weak or recovering economies with limited budgets for addressing issues of environmental protection, insufficient environmental regulation or implementation, limited public participation and political tensions. Looking to the current legal and institutional framework on climate change in this group of countries, we try to identify the main obstacles to climate change policy and to access what has been the EU role at this level. We defend that although the several challenges that these states still must address on, such as corruption and weak governance, the EU accession process has been the main political driver of change in the region, providing opportunities for improving the environment in different ways. Using the comparative method, we argue that there is a correlation between institutional capacity and implementation of environmental laws and that governance aspects have a strong effect on environmental actions and outcomes.


  • Western Balkan region
  • Climate change
  • European Union
  • EU environmental acquis

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-02662-2_8
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  1. 1.

    The agriculture, fisheries and tourism sectors will face considerable challenges in certain areas, and major investment will be required in adaptation activities to face drought, heat waves, forest fires, coastal erosion and flooding (EC 2009, p. 5). “Urban life will have to adapt to more extreme weather conditions which is likely to put a strain on the existing infrastructure in areas like water supply, drainage, health, energy and public transport. Adaptation will attempt to counteract the different impacts of climate change on regional conditions” (Idem).

  2. 2.

    To see more about the environmental impact of the war in Yugoslavia, please see Clarke (2002).

  3. 3.

    “Environmental governance is a specific form of the broader “governance” and refers to processes and institutions through which societies make decisions that affect the environment. It often includes a normative dimension of sustainability” (Wingqvist et al. 2012: 14).

  4. 4.

    To see more about the 7th Environmental Action Program:

  5. 5.

    The acquis has been divided into 35 different chapters, corresponding to different areas of Union policy. One of the chapters of the acquis is devoted to the Union’s environmental rules and regulations.

  6. 6.

    It is difficult to provide a substantive law for every specific environmental matter. To have effective and up-to-date instruments, which are able to regulate and to protect our environment, the EU decided to elaborate the so-called horizontal legislation. This category comprises several procedural pieces of law: the goal is to provide a strict procedural legislation to achieve a substantive protection. The application of this legislative framework leads to an improvement of the decision-making and legislative development through the regulation of the procedural aspect of the matter. Furthermore, the public have an essential role in guarantying an effective application of these rules: in terms of participation and as a supervisor (Env.Net 2017b).

  7. 7.

    Several initiatives were taken to help this group of countries: the Regional Environmental Reconstruction Programme (2000–2009); the Regional Environmental Network for Accession (RENA) (2010–2013) that aimed to facilitate exchange of experience and best practice between the Member States, the candidate countries and the potential candidates; the Handbook for Implementation of EU Climate Legislation, which provides framework and step-by-step guidance, on the approaches and specific activities required to implement EC climate legislation; and, more recently, the Environment and Climate Regional Accession Network (ECRAN) project (2013–2016) that aimed to continue strengthening regional cooperation in the fields of environment and climate action and to assist the beneficiary countries on their way towards the transposition and implementation of the EU environmental and climate policies and instruments which is a key precondition for EU accession. For more information, please see

  8. 8.

    To see more about this issue, see the 2017 Transparency International Report about Global Corruption Report: Climate Change.

  9. 9.

    Specifically related to environment, key challenges include air quality; waste management (including the Landfill Directive); water and wastewater management (including the Water Framework Directive); industrial pollution control and risk management (including Directive on Industrial Emissions); and nature protection (including Natura 2000 sites and lack of implementation of existing laws on nature protection).

  10. 10.

    Interview with an Albanian Environment Ministry Official in September 2017.

  11. 11.

    Interview with a Macedonian Environment Ministry Official in September 2017.

  12. 12.

    Access to information, public participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters are the three pillars of the 1998 Aarhus Convention. Serbia has a network of five Aarhus Centres. The first Aarhus Centre was inaugurated in 2010 in the city of Kragujevac, followed by the Aarhus Centres Novi Sad and Subotica in 2011. In 2012, an Aarhus Centre opened in the south-eastern city of Niš. In 2015, the Aarhus Centre Novi Beograd was inaugurated in the capital Belgrade. The Aarhus Centres of Serbia focus on building and facilitating participatory local governance processes and on promoting dialogue on environmental issues. The Aarhus Centres are also working on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), particularly flood risk reduction (OSCE 2017).

  13. 13.

    Interview with a Serbian Environment Ministry Official in September 2017.


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Correspondence to Teresa Maria Resende Cierco Gomes .

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Cierco Gomes, T.M.R. (2019). The European Union Accession and Climate Change Policies in the Western Balkan Countries. In: Sequeira, T., Reis, L. (eds) Climate Change and Global Development. Contributions to Economics. Springer, Cham.

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