Kranj (dpa) – After a bitter struggle, the EU states have agreed on a compromise regarding the EU membership hopes of the six Western Balkan countries.
According to information from the German press agency, it will be on record for the first time at the EU Western Balkans summit on Wednesday in Slovenia that the European Union continues to engage in the enlargement process which has begun. At the same time, however, it should be emphasized that the ability to integrate new members into the EU also requires further development of the Union itself.
With the addition, according to diplomats, the Paris government wants in particular to keep open the possibility of blocking the admission of new members if, from the French point of view, the EU proves unable to reform in the years to come. . Candidates for membership, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, still do not have absolute certainty about their chances of joining the EU.
Slovenia calls for clarity – Paris refuses
The course of the EU at the upcoming Western Balkans summit had been disputed behind closed doors for days until Monday. Slovenia, host of the summit, recently called for not only a commitment to the enlargement process, but also a pledge to admit Western Balkan states by 2030, according to diplomats. However, other states as France and the Netherlands vehemently opposed it. They argue that most of the Western Balkans are unlikely to be able to implement the necessary reforms as quickly by then.
Moreover, Paris in particular considers that the European Union is not expandable at the moment due to unresolved issues within its own ranks. For example, it is feared that an expansion of six more countries will make decision-making processes, which are often very lengthy, even more difficult.
Countries like Germany, on the other hand, argue that there are considerable risks in dashing the hopes of candidates. You point out that the Balkan states are also courted by countries like Russia, China and Turkey. The disappointed hopes in the development of relations with the EU could therefore lead to neglecting the reforms demanded by EU states for more democracy and the rule of law.
Negotiations are expected to start in 2020
It is particularly sensitive that the start of EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia has been blocked by Bulgaria for domestic policy reasons for around a year – even though a clear decision by the EU to start negotiations was taken in March 2020.
The summit must “send a clear message that membership is an achievable goal for the Western Balkans”, commented Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas after a meeting with his North Macedonian colleague Bujar Osmani. Within the German Bundestag, a broad consensus emerged on support for the prospects of the Western Balkans joining the EU. “We will continue our engagement beyond the current phase of political transition”, underlined the politician of the SPD.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told the “world” ahead of the summit whether Europeans had paid such strict attention to meeting membership criteria when joining countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece, but also during the expansion to the East 15 years ago, as they do. now, in the case of the Western Balkan states, some of these countries might not be part of the EU today. “When joining the EU, it was and still is the political objective to support young democracies and firmly anchor our European model of life.”
EU dismayed by US going it alone
Before heads of state and government of EU states meet with leaders of the Western Balkans on Wednesday, they want to discuss the possible consequences of recent US foreign policy attempts at a small group dinner today. ‘hui. In view of the developments in Afghanistan, the AUKU security partnership and the development of relations with China, EU Council President Charles Michel launched a strategic discussion on the role of the EU on the international stage.
There had been horror in the EU that the United States had negotiated an Indo-Pacific security pact with the United Kingdom and Australia behind the back of the EU in recent months. Washington is also accused of having disregarded the interests of the EU’s partners with a view to withdrawing from Afghanistan. In addition, there is great skepticism about the United States’ course of confrontation against China and the attempts to secure EU membership.
France in particular is demanding more independence vis-à-vis the American superpower in matters of security. Other countries, on the other hand, fear that cutting the cord will end up weakening the EU even further. Chancellor Angela Merkel, still in office, has recently been rather cautious about the demands of Paris.