Six EU hopefuls from the Western Balkans are largely post-conflict nations burdened with systemic corruption and weak institutions. In Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo, opportunities for economic growth are severely limited by open and informal political influence, and the public sector remains the largest employer and a powerful tool of social control. Consequentially, economic growth is too slow to catch up with the rest of the EU, but sufficient to keep the illiberal regimes afloat.

Arguably, in the countries most affected by state capture, the special interests of the political elite have merged with legislative process and governance. The process, which distorts the economic and political playing field favours large state-controlled companies and oligarchic monopolies which act as informal tax collectors and effectively obstruct the development of the independent private sector.

In several Balkan states, members of the same political elite have been in power for almost three decades, and their engagement with business is an issue that is unravelled in today’s insight.