The EU seeks to involve the six Western Balkan candidate countries in foreign policy decision-making, senior officials said at the November 13 ministerial meeting.
The comment from EU diplomat Josep Borrell follows a sea change in attitude towards enlargement, as the invasion of Ukraine has refocused EU officials and men Member States’ policies on the integration of southern and eastern EU countries into the EU fold. Future members are already being offered greater integration with the EU while awaiting accession, as well as increased European funding. However, although new candidate countries have been admitted, several Western Balkan countries’ progress towards membership has been uneven.
Borrell commented on November 13 on the EU’s aim to involve the Western Balkans in its decision-making related to foreign and security policies before the region’s accession to the EU.
Borrell wrote on the social network X (formerly Twitter) that the European Union sees the future of the Western Balkans in its fold.
“I will chair the EU-#Western Balkans ministerial meeting this evening with the 6 ministers from the region,” he wrote before the EU-Western Balkans ministerial meeting in Brussels.
“We want to advance the integration of the region in our decision-making process, including on foreign and security policy – already before accession. The place of the World Banks is in the EU.
The discussion at the November 13 meeting focused on common security challenges amid persistent global and regional security threats, an EU council said. statement said.
Borrell stressed the importance of unity and strong cooperation with Western Balkan partners to build resilience and foster peace and stability on the continent. He said that the European Union considers the candidate countries to be reliable collaborators on foreign, security and defense policy, particularly regarding alignment with EU decisions in these areas.
“High Representative Borrell reiterated the EU’s strong and continued support – political, technical and financial – to all current and potential candidates to help them advance key political, institutional, social and economic reforms,” says the communicated.
European Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, who also attended the meeting in Brussels, wrote on the X platform that the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU is a “common goal” of both sides.
“This concerns our common security, our stability, our prosperity. Ensuring peace on our continent is our common project,” Varhelyi said.
The European Commissioner for Economy, Paolo Getolini, also said: “We want to offer the Western Balkan countries some benefits from the EU in advance. This will be an increased cooperation with the region. It will not It’s not just an enlargement.”
Calls for faster integration
A group of EU member states presented a proposal on November 13 to accelerate the integration of Western Balkan countries into the bloc. The proposal was discussed by Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia ahead of the EU-Western Balkans ministerial meeting in Brussels.
“Slovenia supports strengthening the union’s cooperation with the Western Balkan countries in the field of common foreign and security policy,” said Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Tanja Fajon in a press release published by the Slovenian government.
“Together with Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Croatia, Italy and Slovakia, we called for the development of a plan for the gradual but accelerated integration of the Western Balkan countries. Among other things, we advocate that after having harmonized their foreign and security policy with European policy, they can participate in our meetings as observers. Only by strengthening our ties can we successfully meet the challenges that lie ahead: from disinformation to hybrid threats and illegal immigration.”
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg made a similar remark. “It is crucial to keep the #WesternBalkans at the top of our political agenda in order to support the region’s #EU path,” Schallenberg wrote on X.
“Great meeting with our #WB6 partners in #Brussels. Together with the Friends of the Western Balkans, I proposed to deepen our cooperation on common foreign and security policy.”
Serbia under pressure
EU foreign ministers and European Commission officials also called at the meeting on Western Balkan countries to fully align with the bloc’s foreign and security policy.
This mainly applies to Serbia, since most Western Balkan countries – all six candidates or potential candidates for EU membership – have already aligned themselves with the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), notably by imposing sanctions on Russia.
Serbia, despite supporting UN resolutions condemning the invasion of Ukraine, has so far refused to join Western sanctions against its old ally Russia.
The country is under additional pressure after RFE/RL investigative journalists revealed that several Serbian companies were exporting dual-use products to Russia, despite Belgrade’s pledge not to help Russia avoid sanctions.
“I am happy to attend the ministerial meeting with Western Balkan partners. He reaffirmed the RO’s (Romania’s) unwavering support for the region’s path and called for full alignment with the EU’s foreign and security policy positions,” wrote the Romanian Foreign Minister, Luminita Odobescu.
“The EU-Western Balkans ministerial meeting takes place today in Brussels. Strong support for deeper cooperation with our partners and neighbors in the region. We hope for full alignment of the CFSP, including with EU restrictive measures,” Bulgaria told the EU office.