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Glacial EU Accession Process Frustrates Balkan Leaders

At the latest EU-Western Balkans Summit six EU hopefuls heard promises of aid, but not the kind they really want.

14 July 2017

After a meeting in Trieste, Italy, this Wednesday with officials from seven EU members, six Balkan heads of government signed agreements for investments of $570 million in new “connectivity projects,” including $221 million in EU grants and loans from two international banks linked to the EU, RFE/RL reports.

 

They were probably mulling over German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarking ahead of the summit that the EU had a duty to move the region “slowly but surely” toward the bloc.

 

"Political stability in the region means political stability for us too," Merkel said. "We know this from experience."

 

 

As RFE comments, however, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia “remain skeptical of such meetings, worried that they are meant to appease them instead of helping them toward their goal of eventually joining the EU.”

 

This was the fourth such meeting since 2014. Since then Serbia, seen as the probable next EU member, has opened negotiations on accession, a process likely to go on for years.

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said it is time for the EU to say if, and roughly when, it is interested in his country joining the union.

 

This was “the crucial issue for Serbia,” he told the Italian ANSA news agency Wednesday, according to InSerbia.

 

He added that Serbia was “no longer willing to listen to promises.”

 

 

  • Since the EU officially put the membership option on the table in 2003, the Western Balkan countries “are still walking a seemingly endless EU integration path, while the EU is often perceived as being too exclusively focused on the mere preservation of ‘stability’ in what is regularly referred to as its ‘backyard,’ ” the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG) wrote last spring.

 

  • “However, this stability looks increasingly illusory, particularly in light of recent events,” the group’s policy brief commented.

 

  • After the damage from Brexit, the EU can turn Balkan dreams of membership to its own advantage, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said on the sidelines of the summit. “The desire of the region to join Europe is an opportunity for Europe to feel attractive,” EurActiv quotes Dimitrov as saying.

 

  • “The region and its readiness to step it up and finish the job is an opportunity for Europe to show it can make a difference and that it can think big and be self-confident,” he added.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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