Puka: EU should change its approach to Western Balkans

“The European Union’s approach to the Western Balkans is much the same as its approach to North Africa and the Middle East: prioritizing stability. As a result, the Union risks aligning itself with increasingly illiberal and authoritarian regimes and mistaking their power for stability”, argues Arlind Puka from the European Parliamentary Financial Services Forum (EPFSF).

Puka thinks that Serbia and Montenegro should be constantly encourage on their way to the EU membership by opening of new negotiation chapters, Albania should be given the definite date of the beginning of the accession negotiations, while Macedonia should be helped to finally resolve its conflict with Greece regarding the country’s official name. According to him, the Western Balkan countries could not join the EU before 2025 because of theireconomic problems, high levels of corruption and organized crime, political influence over the judiciary system, and high levels of youth unemployment ranging from 34% to 62%”.

Speaking about the new approach that the EU should adopt, Puka goes on to say that “the EU should stop viewing Kosovo as an adjunct to its Serbian policy. The way the Union has handled the visa liberalization process for Kosovo has been disgraceful. The EU countries are being more cautious amid immigration fears, but this is not a reason not to give Kosovo the green light.”

Puka also reflects on the growing Russian and Turkish influence in the Balkans and says: “Competition between the ‘great powers’ has returned to the region, and the European Union, absorbed by other crises, has failed to respond. With Europe distracted, Russia and Turkey are increasing their influence in the Balkans. Russia, in particular is taking the opportunity to undermine the Western influence, fanning the flames of underlying conflicts and promoting an anti-EU message. There is a rising tide of illiberalism as local elites have wavered in their commitment to democratic reform, encouraged by the Putin and Erdogan models, and the sense that EU accession is no longer a realistic prospect”.

(Euractiv, 30.01.2017)


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