Ivo Sanader’s resignation, writes Ian Bancroft, “provides a telling insight into the predicaments facing governments throughout the region as their own EU membership aspirations dwindle” with Croatia, considered likely to become the 28th EU member state, seeing its accession hopes break down over its unresolved border dispute with Slovenia.

Sanader’s resignation was preceded by that Ivica Bocevski, Macedonia's deputy PM, responsible for the country's integration into the EU. Granted EU candidate status in 2005, Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic ambitions have been thwarted by a name dispute with neighbours Greece, who vetoed the former's bid to join Nato.

“The prospect of European integration has had a defining impact on politics throughout the western Balkans,” writes Bancroft. Politicians and parties secure electoral support for often controversial reforms in return for “demonstrable progress towards membership of the EU.” As accession becomes increasingly compromised by “uncertainties deriving from the global financial crisis, delays in ratifying the Lisbon treaty and a rise in enlargement-scepticism,” political parties pursuing their aims solely arguing the benefits of EU accession are likely to encounter difficulties ahead.