As political jostling continues about the future of Europe, it is important to remember that there are six countries in the Western Balkans that have firmly tied their colours to the European mast.

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are all actively working towards the ultimate goal of EU membership. All six have a formal contractual arrangement with the EU through Stabilisation and Association Agreements which are all now in force.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), an international financial institution that sees cross-border integration as one of its priorities, fully supports this goal. For the countries of the Western Balkans, EU approximation does not just mean reform and investment. It also represents a vision of lasting peace and prosperity – goals that the EU itself has achieved for its member countries. Read more

By Tarik Kurbegović, chief executive, Sarajevo Stock Exchange

On the walls of the conference hall of the Sarajevo Stock Exchange hang copies of shares from the era when Bosnia was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. While this suggests a long tradition of capital markets culture, it does not, alas, reflect the true state of awareness among Bosnian citizens. We have started to work on improving the country’s financial literacy. But it will take time. Read more

A grim reminder on Friday of the economic havoc that the eurozone crisis is wreaking in the Balkans.

Croatia’s GDP shrank 1.9 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter, according to to the state statistics bureau, putting the country well on the way to a 2 per cent contraction for 2012, the fourth year of recession in a row. Hardly the best preparation for joining the EU next July. Read more

Vujanovic: polls time

When Montenegro’s government called an early election this week, it was seen as an attempt to cash in on the country’s progress towards EU membership. But the leadership, effectively in control for more than two decades, may not have things all its own way.

A troubled economy and allegations of corruption could give a boost to a previously disunited opposition. Read more

Diplomatic sabre-rattling and political oneupmanship are all too common in the Balkans. It appears that Slovenia’s latest threat to block Croatian EU membership involves plenty of both.

Slovenian foreign minister Karl Erjavec on Monday said that defining the parameters of a complicated banking dispute dating back to the collapse of Yugoslavia was a “precondition” of Slovenia’s backing for Croatia’s accession, according to Ljubljana’s STA news agency. Croatia cannot join the EU without ratification from all existing members, including neighbouring Slovenia. It is currently scheduled to join in July 2013. Will this row derail that? Read more

The eurozone crisis might have left south-eastern Europe in an economic doldrums since 2009 but that has not stopped one company from seeking its fortunes in the region.

Tobacco AD, a fast-growing Macedonian convenience store chain, is betting that even in these times of financial austerity, people will continue to drink, smoke and pay their utility bills.

The Skopje-based company, with 55 stores open already in the former Yugoslav republic, is planning to raise €2m via an initial public offering to fund its expansion around the western Balkans. Read more