The topic of the latest Eastern Monitor, prepared this time by our Jana Juzová, was the European dream of the Western Balkans.
Despite the encouraging statements by European Commission’s President Juncker in 2017 following the introduction of the European Commission’s Strategy for Western Balkans, this year’s developments are a testament to continued enlargement fatigue amongst EU Member States. Since the acknowledgement of the Western Balkan countries as potential candidates for EU membership at the European Council Summit in Feira in 2000, it could seem that the region has not progressed remarkably.
The progress in the already ongoing accession process of Montenegro and Serbia, the “frontrunners”, has slowed down significantly this year, perhaps in part as a result of getting to the point where the easier and technical issues have been successfully resolved and more difficult chapters are now on the table. Neither country, despite their relative advancement on their EU paths in comparison to the rest of the region, can continue showing efforts in technical issues to hide the absence of willingness to deliver on the fundamental reforms in substantial and more problematic areas (such as Chapters 23 and 24 or in the case of Serbia also Chapter 31).
On the other hand, the other two candidates for EU membership, Albania and North Macedonia, have been prevented in October from starting their accession talks by several EU Member States. In the case of Albania, the decision of EU leaders did not come as a big surprise since the opposition among Member States was quite strong, with the Netherlands calling into question even the visa-free regime between EU and Albania on the basis of Albanian leadership not being able to handle organized crime groups in their country. However, the decision to block negotiations with North Macedonia could be expected only in the darkest scenarios and has been termed a “historic mistake” by top EU and US representatives.
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Expertise: regionalism, Visegrad cooperation, democratization and European integration of the Western Balkan countries, EU enlargement
Provides updates on the European Neighbourhood Policy agenda of the EU and the integration and enlargement issues.