The Western Balkans’ accession to the EU is currently “on hold”, and it is inevitable to see what can be offered to the region in return – this is the conclusion of EU officials dealing with the Western Balkans, as well as analysts from European institutes.
The Brussels-based Centre for European Policy believes that “since there is no real progress in EU enlargement to include the Western Balkans, nor viable solutions to overcome the region’s fundamental problems, promises of EU support and a common future now ring hollow…and it is unclear where enlargement policy is now heading”.
In a Carnegie Europa analysis, Oxford University professor Dimitar Bechev said that although the Western Balkans are not yet lost to the EU, “the Union must largely blame itself for losing its influence…and its main goal of membership has become its ‘Achilles’ heel’ “because if the EU’s doors remain closed, those in power in the region will turn a deaf ear to Brussels’ demands.”
Diplomatic sources in Brussels also say that the conclusion of those familiar with events in the Western Balkans is that the situation in the entire region is currently very bad, “a very disappointing situation” in terms of adopting European norms and laws, and with underdeveloped democracies. The authorities in the region are mostly autocratic rulers, often involved in corruption and even criminality, prone to demagogy, nationalism, and chauvinism which they are using to stay in power.
According to these sources, they are essentially fine with being rebuffed by the aversion of some EU members and potential voters to accept ‘poor relations’, because they themselves do not want to enforce norms and rules, in particular the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression, which could easily cause them to lose power and end up in prison.
Some renowned political analysis organizations, such as the Institute for Security and International Policy in Berlin and the Institute for International Affairs in Rome, believe that, because the EU has been giving the priority to policies of maintaining stability in the region and turning the blind eye to the autocratic regimes here, the current economic and trade policies are hurting the region which year after year has been having a constant trade deficit with the EU.
The open market in the Western Balkans is much more favourable to the economic interests of the Union and therefore raises the question of why fundamentally change it, even if recently, due to the global strategy of the European partners in Washington, the EU is convinced that further involvement of the China and Russia in the region should not be allowed.
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