EU Financial Assistance to the Western Balkans: A Minority-focused Review of CARDS and IPA
Since the early 1990s, the European Union (EU) has been the largest donor to the countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo (under UNSCR 1244). Since the late 1990s, the main focus of this engagement has been ensuring political and economic stabilization and the consolidation of democracy and civil society in the region. The need to address the needs and priorities of minority groups was early on identified as a key component in the process of ensuring long-term democratic stabilization. But as this study shows, despite this commitment, neither the CARDS nor the IPA development programme have succeeded in consistently addressing minority issues and supporting civil society organizations (CSOs) representing minority issues, or in having a profound, positive impact on the lives of marginalized minority groups in the region.
Following on from an earlier MRG report Pushing for Change? South East Europe’s Minorities in the EU Progress Reports, this study provides a minority-rights focused assessment of the EU’s principal development programmes for engagement in the region – the Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation (CARDS) programme (which ran from 2002 until 2006) and the current Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) programme. Drawing on policy and programme documents, as well as material collected by MRG’s partner organizations in the region during workshops and interviews with minority CSOs, the report assesses the extent to which minority inclusion and protection forms a part of the current IPA strategy and programming, looking particularly at minority participation in public life, access to education and access to employment.