Home Politics EU wants closer ties with Western Balkans but expects reforms – DW – 13/12/2023

EU wants closer ties with Western Balkans but expects reforms – DW – 13/12/2023

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European Union leaders met their hopeful counterparts from six Western Balkan countries in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss their membership in the bloc.

Speaking before the start of the EU-Western Balkans summit, Charles Michel, President of the European Council said: “We expect more reforms from them, particularly in the area of ​​the rule of law, in the area of ​​judicial independence.”

Michel underlined the “strong political determination” of regional leaders to carry out these reforms.

Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, called the bloc’s potential expansion to include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia a “security guarantee most important” in the EU, urging member states to act quickly to achieve this. expansion approx.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said membership offered a “historic opportunity” to “anchor” the region in Europe “once and for all”.

“Serbia will never accept the independence of Kosovo”

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Western Balkan countries have been waiting for years to join the EU

Several Western Balkan countries have been waiting for accession for more than a decade, with little progress to show.

Montenegro, for example, applied for membership in 2012, followed by Serbia in 2014. Yet these two countries are far from having fully aligned their legal systems with that of the EU.

Albania and North Macedonia both opened membership negotiations last year. Bosnia hopes to do so later this week. Kosovo faces an additional problem: Many countries have never recognized the independence it declared after its separation from Serbia in 2008.

Expectations and frustration of Western Balkan countries

Borrell told EU member states: “What we need to do is keep our promises, avoid frustration and meet the expectations that have been created. »

This frustration was expressed by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, who blamed Western sanctions during the Yugoslav War of the 1990s for her country’s refusal to pass sanctions against Russia – to the dismay of almost all member states of the EU.

The EU also proposed a 6 billion euro ($6.5 billion) economic fund for the Western Balkans, but that plan was blocked in EU budget negotiations.

After concluding the Western Balkans Summit, EU leaders will meet for a smaller European summit that begins on Thursday. Among the topics of discussion will be Hungary’s continued blockade of Ukraine’s European aspirations – perhaps as a way to force the bloc to reduce the funds blocked compared to those of Hungary. judicial slippage.

EU candidate status gives Bosnia and Herzegovina another chance

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js/sms (AFP, dpa)

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