According to an internal EU document, the European Union must realise that the Balkan countries aspiring to EU membership are losing faith in Brussels’ long-term accession strategy, and are also worried lately by its inability to provide timely vaccines against the coronavirus, Reuters writes.
“Europe and the United States say that Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia will one day become members of the club of 27 states, following the ethnic wars of the 1990s that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
But China and Russia, whose trade and investment levels in the Balkans are far less than the EU’s, are gaining influence, outsmarting the bloc by offering COVID-19 vaccines quickly during the pandemic”, Reuters writes.
“We need to acknowledge that despite the steadfast commitment to EU integration … the people in the region are experiencing a sense of deep disappointment in the enlargement process,” said the May 5 paper by EU officials and sent to EU’s 27 foreign ministries.
“A perception of tardy EU delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines has further fed a narrative of disillusionment,” said the EU paper, which was prepared for Monday’s meeting of foreign ministers, who discussed the Balkans but did not take formal decisions.
Reuters quotes EU diplomats and says that “France held up proceedings in 2019 with scepticism over Albanian and North Macedonian efforts on democracy and fighting corruption. The European Commission, the EU executive, insists Albania and North Macedonia must move forward together. However, a suggestion by EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi this month – later withdrawn – that only Albania should start entry talks, added to a sense of disarray.”
“Membership talks with Serbia and Montenegro, the pair seen as furthest ahead in the accession process, have also slowed, while Bosnia and Kosovo have yet to be formally designated as EU membership candidates. The widespread perception in the Western Balkans is that the prospect of accession is receding and that European inspirations are lost under a complex set of conditions and procedures,” the internal report said.
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