New EU enlargement methodology – much ado about nothing?

The latest analysis titled “Is the new EU enlargement methodology enough to attract the Western Balkans?” reveals how this new methodology should allow for a more dynamic and credible process, although it is not yet clear how it will be applied in practice and whether it will bring the expected results.

At a time when the EU is trying to get out of the pandemic-induced crisis, not much seems to be happening in the enlargement area: negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania have not started while Serbia and Montenegro have neither moved forward nor received guidelines on how to proceed in the new EU enlargement methodology.

In the part of the analysis called “Application of the new enlargement methodology to Montenegro and Serbia: much ado about nothing?” it is stated that Montenegro is currently trying to meet 83 transition criteria for chapters 23 and 24 (45 for chapter 23 and 38 for chapter 24) while Serbia has a total of 98 transition criteria, 48 for 23 and 50 for chapter 24.

Serbia and Montenegro have prepared action plans approved by the European Commission to meet these transition criteria. The Commission, on the other hand, has at its disposal a balance clause that allows it to prevent the country from opening new negotiation chapters until it has made satisfactory progress on reforms in chapters 23 and 24 (rule of law).

Negotiations so far have shown that the implementation of reforms and strengthening of the rule of law in these countries has been limited, and the question is whether the new methodology will allow for more progress.

The analysis authors also state that Serbia and Montenegro accepted the new methodology in the summer of 2020, but that the Commission only reacted with some announcements in March 2021; the submission of the application paper is not expected until June.

It is estimated that this delay is unjustified, especially in the case of Montenegro, which has opened all chapters and therefore has the opportunity to open all 6 clusters. This delay, as stated, may be an indication that the European Commission lacks an adequate strategy regarding the application of the methodology.

It is also estimated that although the new methodology adopted in February 2020 envisages rewarding countries according to their performance, it is not clear how it will be applied in practice and this is particularly problematic because if only sanctions are insisted upon that is not become particularly encouraging to reforms.

The analysis concludes that the new methodology is more complex, more political and more challenging than before, but that, if both sides are determined, it offers a better chance for a credible, dynamic and sustainable policy process.

Zoran Nečev, Dragan Tilev, Jovana Marović and Alba Cela are the analysis authors which was financially backed by the Visegrad International Fund.

(, Beta, 05.05.2021)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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