The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union consisting of 27-member countries. Currently, there are four candidate member states in the Western Balkan. These are Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The two other Western Balkan countries, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo, have also expressed interest in joining the European Union. Since they do not (yet) meet the requirements for candidate membership, they are classified as potential candidates. Joining the European Union is a long and complicated process, which can take decades. The process is long and complicated because the candidate countries need to enact reforms in order to prepare for membership. These reforms are necessary due the extent of the EU’s rules and regulations. Citizens of candidate countries are on the side-line as their country tries to enact the reforms. This research investigates how the European Union accession process shifts the trust that the Western Balkan citizens have in the European Union. Two specific cases are chosen for this research. The chosen countries are North Macedonia and Montenegro. These states are chosen for two reasons. Firstly, these countries have the longest accession process. Secondly, their accession process differs from the other Western Balkan countries. The accession of North Macedonia is most troublesome, while the accession of Montenegro is described as the miracle of the Western Balkan. Both reasons ensure that there is enough data. The aim of this paper is to analyse which factors cause a change of citizen trust in the EU. There are four factors that could potentially cause a decrease or increase in citizen trust in the EU. These factors are prolonged accession period, the size and speed of rewards, the credibility of the conditionality and the size of domestic adoption costs. The European Union measures citizen trust in the EU twice a year with the Eurobarometer questionnaire. The results are used as a cautionary for Euroscepticism or as a promotion of EU integration. However, the citizen trust in candidate states is not taken into account with this questionnaire. Whilst the reforms during the accession process are highly demanding on a country. High citizen trust in the EU is required if reforms need to be implemented. This paper will research which factors cause a change in citizen trust in the EU during the accession period in the Western Balkan.

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Dr. Asya Zhelyazkova, Prof.dr. Markus Haverland
Public Administration
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Luuk Maathuis. (2022, June 30). Six nations united in their European dream. Public Administration. Retrieved from