Promises, but still no horizon for the European integration of the Western Balkans
In Brdo, the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU wanted to push the advantage of its neighbors, before France, rather hostile to any entry of new members, took the seat in January 2022. Ljubjana wanted to commit to welcome them by 2030, but has not been followed by other capitals. It was not until July 2027 that another country, Greece, close to the Western Balkans, took over the presidency of the Council.
Germany, through Heiko Maas, has indicated that it supports the opening of the EU to Albania and North Macedonia. The German Foreign Minister stressed the need to “send a clear message: the accession of the Western Balkans is an achievable goal “. For her part, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, repeated: “We want to send a very clear message: the Western Balkans belong to the EU, we share the same history, the same values and, I am sure, the same fate.”
Meanwhile, the six Western Balkan countries continue to knock on the EU’s door. But it is not about to open. Serbia has been waiting for eighteen years. So much so that three of them decided to sign a free trade agreement called “Open Balkans” at the end of July 2021 in Skopje during the Economic Forum on regional cooperation. This antechamber of the EU brings together Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia. The opening of the borders will be operational on January 1, 2023.
“Open Balkans” is intended to include the other three states in the region. “Today we are starting to do in the region what we will do tomorrow in the EU“, commented Edi Rama, Albanian Prime Minister. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic spoke”enlargement fatigue in the EU. Rather, we need to see what we can do for ourselves, what we can do for our citizens, how we can expand our markets. ”
To date, five countries are officially candidates for membership: Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. Four of them are therefore in the Western Balkans. However, since 2014, only Serbia has started the process of pre-accession negotiations. The latest country to join the EU, Croatia in July 2013, is also in this region.