EU no longer agrees on Balkan membership guarantee, diplomats say By Reuters
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union, fearing a political backlash in member states, can no longer agree to give a guarantee of future membership to the six Balkan countries once promised a place in the club, according to four diplomats and an internal document.
A stalemate over the declaration of a summit between EU and Balkan leaders is a major omission in the EU’s strategy to include Serbia, Kosovo Bosnia-Herzegovina Montenegro Albania, Montenegro, Montenegro, Albania, and North Macedonia within the bloc. It coincides with a flare-up of tension at the Kosovo-Serbia border https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/nato-increases-patrols-near-kosovo-serbia-border-blockage-2021-09-27.
According to a Sept. 11 draft declaration, the EU was planning to reiterate its 18-year-old promise to support the European view of the Western Balkans. Diplomats claim that the summit has been through at least two rounds without any agreement.
The EU countries would not reveal their positions but rich northern nations like Denmark, France, and the Netherlands are concerned about a repeat of 2007’s rushed accession to Romania and Bulgaria and poor management of migration of workers from eastern Europe to Britain. This led many Britons to be against the EU.
Because of a dispute over language, Bulgaria opposes North Macedonia’s joining.
Even if one language can be agreed upon, this malaise is indicative of paralysis within the EU’s plan for a “ring” to create close ties, trade, and aid.
Instead, China https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-silkroad-europe-montenegro-insi-idUSKBN1K60QX and Russia are encroaching with investments and influence. Serbia, the European nation that received Chinese COVID-19 vaccines in mass immunization, was first to do so on January.
The EU is also indirectly exacerbating tensions in the region of 20 million people, diplomats say, because Balkan citizens https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/eus-balkan-strategy-losing-local-support-internal-paper-warns-2021-05-12 dreamed of joining the EU after the ethnic wars of the 1990s as Yugoslavia disintegrated.
NATO troops intensified patrols in Kosovo Monday, near the border crossings that were blocked by Serbs. They are angry about a ban on Serbian-license plate cars entering the country.
Serbia is not recognizing Kosovo’s independence declaration from 2008 and has been conducting military operations near the border.
A senior EU diplomat involved with Balkan policy in Brussels said that “they have to behave to be noticed.” There is an underlying decline in Balkans due to the loss of interest and support for EU capitals.
US and EU have appealed for calm. On Tuesday, Ursula von der Leyen (President of European Commission) began a three day trip to the six Balkan nations to highlight the EU’s commitment.
In her first stop in Albania, von der Leyen said she stood by the pledge that “Albania’s future is in the EU.”
The EU’s credibility is being damaged after France, the Netherlands and Bulgaria temporarily stopped the enlargement process 2 years ago.
After being invited by President Donald Trump one year ago to sign a normalisation of economic relations deal, Kosovo and Serbia now feel disappointed by America. EU has failed to honor its promises that Kosovo would be allowed visa-free travel.
Austria, Italy (and Croatia), Slovenia, Slovenia, and other pro-enlargement nations, like the Baltic countries and Slovenia, lament France’s inability to pressure Bulgaria to end its veto. Albania’s progress was also halt due to its dependence on North Macedonia during the enlargement process.
John O’Brennan of Maynooth University in Ireland is an expert on EU integration. He stated that “as long as so many member countries, for one or another reason, believe that it’s not right to extend The EU Community further, then we really are going nowhere.”