The Brief, powered by ESA – In the ghetto – EURACTIV.com
A glance at a map of Europe shows that the European Union is strangely absent in one corner, known as the Western Balkans.
And although the nations of Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina were promised that they would one day join the bloc, they appear to be moving further and further away from the EU, rather than getting closer, every time. year.
A recent study by IAI – Instituto Affari Internazionalei – shows that the amount of funds allocated under the EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) has in fact been reduced in the new seven-year budget.
In addition, the Western Balkans’ trade deficit (the repatriation of profits from EU companies active in the region) exceeds the amount of this aid, not to mention the massive loss of human capital due to migration.
In addition, the wealth gap between the region and its neighboring EU members, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Hungary, is widening.
The EU’s additional post-pandemic stimulus funds will allow these EU countries to receive up to 11 times more funds per capita than the six western Balkan states.
In the Western Balkans, states will receive on average € 500 per capita for the period 2021-2027, compared to around € 5,100 per capita for Croatia and € 5,700 for Greece.
These numbers speak for themselves. While the EU advocates cohesion, it practices ghettoization.
Under such conditions any promise to keep the doors open for new members seems hypocritical as the goal posts are moved and the distance to the elusive finish line increases.
An old joke that actually explains the collapse of communism says, “They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work. In the context of the Western Balkans, one could say: “They pretend to want to join us, we pretend to prepare.
This seems to fit the agenda of Serbia, where the local autocrat does not want to join the EU because his loyalties lie elsewhere.
It also plays in the hands of certain circles in several countries playing geopolitical games, ranging from the arrival of foreign state actors in the region to the hypothetical redistribution of borders and the construction of a Greater Albania.
You break it, you own it.
The Western Balkans have a potential for destabilization that goes beyond the region. Under President Joe Biden, whose spirit is at odds with China, the United States is unlikely to act as a policeman in the region again.
The EU does not have a lot of choice. It should either make proper use of its main tool – its soft power – or it will have to control the underside of the continent the hard way.
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Views are those of the author
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]