Our latest Eastern Monitor, authored by Jana Juzová, analyses the recently published Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkan candidates by the European Commission.
The Strategy is in line with the previous engagement of the EU in the region. The Thessaloniki Summit in 2003 spelled out a clear European perspective for the Western Balkan countries, and still today remains a reason of optimism for local leaders and populations. The outcomes of the Summit then arguably stimulated the region’s leaders to strengthen their efforts in the adoption and implementation of the required reforms, bringing them closer to the EU. Populations in the region welcomed this signal as it gave it a much needed hope and motivation to go through the difficult and sometimes even painful reform process with a clear perspective of a European future.
The ‘loser’ of the Strategy is clearly Kosovo. Compared to the other countries, its European perspective was hardly given any attention in the document. The Strategy only states that Kosovo ‘has an opportunity for sustainable progress through implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and to advance on its European path once objective circumstances allow’. This lack of clarity on its European perspective shows once again that the EU ambiguity and disunity towards Kosovo brings additional complications to the process.
With Russia becoming more assertive and active in the region, there are concerns inside the EU about the Western Balkan countries’ possible geopolitical orientation. These circumstances raise the question of whether the EU leaders will not tend to be more forgiving towards the candidates in terms of fulfilling the requirements in face of the risk of their orientation Eastwards. Namely in the case of Serbia, lagging behind Montenegro in a number of chapters while still labelled as a frontrunner, there are already accusations of double standards and preferential treatment from the EU and opinions that Serbia was granted this position only because it plays the Russian card well.
It appears the EU takes its share of responsibility seriously. The Strategy introduced six flagship initiatives enhancing its engagement with the Western Balkans in areas of mutual interest. These intensified efforts are to be
supported with gradually increased funding under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance until 2020.
The whole publication is availiable throught the PDF button on the (bottom) right side of this article.#EU enlargement #Western Balkans #accession #enlargement #EU Commission #Enlargement Strategy
TOPICS: regionalism, Visegrad cooperation, democratization and European integration of the Western Balkan countries, EU enlargement.