FT: EU must not give up on Balkans

Source: N1

The European Union should not give up on the Balkans, while the unmet promises on the EU membership could weaken moderate and reformist forces in the region, the Financial Times (FT) wrote on Wednesday, as carried by the Beta news agency.

The article echoes a warning about the Western Balkans published in National Interest magazine.

US former diplomats Frank Wisner and Cameron Munter, and an expert for South-Eastern Europe Marko Prelec said in a joint article that there was no time to lose and called on the European leadership to focus together with the US on the Western Balkans again.

The FT said Europe could make a historical mistake in the Balkans since the bloc’s leaders were to decide on the start of the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in June.

The decision must be unanimous, but some member states as France and Netherlands are reluctant regarding further enlargement, the daily said.

The newspaper added that the French wanted the EU to focus on its reforms, strengthening the Euro Zone and avoiding measures which could empower nationalistic and populist ideas. However, the FT said, that could fire back at Union, which believed it had the Balkans under control.

If there were a delay, the daily said, the people in North Macedonia could ask would the EU open its doors ever if the Athens-Skopje deal on name change did not deserve it.

The delay could postpone the reforms on North Macedonia, undermine the anti-corruption fight and even revive Macedonian chauvinism, the FT said.

The daily warned that in case North Macedonia gets the green light for the accession talks and Albania is left in a waiting room, that could inflame the pan-Albanian nationalism which could revive more explicitly the idea on “Greater Albania.”

Such a scenario, the FT said, would additionally undermine efforts in solving the Belgrade – Pristina relations and increase the tensions among Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“If the regional instability grows due to the EU’s shyness, it will become fertile soil for foreign interference,” the paper said, mentioning the influences of Russia, Turkey and China.