The EU plans to grant membership to six countries – Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the self-proclaimed state of Kosovo – The Financial Times writes.
According to the daily, the main reasons why the official Brussels has decided to make this move is that the Balkans serves as the stepping stone for thousands of immigrants in their effort to reach the EU territory. However, the Financial Times says that that is not the only reason.
“EU strategists also fear that Russia is expanding influence in a region where it has traditional allies”, the paper writes.
“A significant number of citizens of the region believe they will never join the EU,” said Florian Bieber, a South-East Europe specialist at the University of Graz. “People have kind of given up on it to a large degree.”
The new enlargement plan for the Western Balkans is supposed to be presented in front of the European Commission on 6th February.
“The EU will hold out the prospect of membership to six western Balkan countries by 2025 as it seeks to breathe new life into enlargement of the bloc, strengthen controls on migration, and counter Russian influence in the volatile region. But European diplomats say the ambitious timeline, albeit one that is more motivational than realistic, is crucial to tighten the embrace between Brussels and nations that emerged from the collapse of Yugoslavia”, the daily adds.
“In a way, the six countries are not outsiders, they are already inside, and we need them,” said one pro-enlargement EU diplomat. “That’s why we need to re-energise the enlargement process, without providing any short-cuts.”
“The European Commission is also expected to call on the western Balkans six to resolve outstanding bilateral disputes and tackle corruption, in recognition of problems that have dogged other new members in the past decade. Serbia and Montenegro, which have already begun EU accession talks, are viewed as the two most likely western Balkan aspirants to make the 2025 milestone”, the FT says and concludes that “Bulgaria, which holds the rotating EU presidency in the first half of this year, and Austria, which will follow it in the second six months, have made the region a priority”.
(B92, Financial Times, 02.02.2018)
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