Reuters: EU no longer agrees on Balkan membership guarantee, diplomats say

Milanović, Dodik i Đukanović
Source: Milanović, Dodik i Đukanović (Reuters/Borut Zivulovic)

The European Union disagrees over the enlargement to the Western Balkans, according to four diplomats and an internal document, the UK Reuters news agency has reported on Tuesday.

The sources told Reuters the bloc feared „a political backlash in member states,“ although the six regional countries were promised membership in 2003 during a meeting in Thessaloniki.

„An impasse over a declaration for a summit of EU and Balkan leaders on October 6 is a low point in the EU’s strategy to bring Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia into the bloc,“ the agency quoted a source.

It added that it „coincides with a flare-up of tension at the Kosovo-Serbia border.“

Reuters had access to a draft summit declaration dated September 11, prepared for the forthcoming summit in Slovenia, which currently holds the EU Presidency.

The promise made 18 years ago to give „its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans has undergone at least two rounds of talks with no agreement,“ diplomats told Reuters.

„As long as you have so many member states, for one reason or another, who believe that it is not right to extend the EU community further, then we are really going nowhere,“ John O’Brennan, an expert on EU integration at Maynooth University in Ireland told Reuters.

The agency said that „EU states would not disclose their positions, but wealthy northern countries such as Denmark, France and the Netherlands fear a repeat of the rushed accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and the poorly managed migration of eastern European workers to Britain that turned many Britons against the EU.“

Besides, for example, Bulgaria is against North Macedonia joining because of a language dispute.

Also, as Reuters says, „China and Russia are encroaching with investments and influence. It recalled that Serbia was the first European country to receive Chinese COVID-19 vaccines for mass inoculation in January.

„Pro-enlargement states, including Austria, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and the Baltic countries, chide Germany and France for failing to press Bulgaria to lift its veto. Albania’s progress has also been halted because it is tied to North Macedonia in the enlargement process,“ Reuters reported.

As far as Serbia is concerned, Reuters recalls the latest development on two border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia where NATO-led KFOR troops had to step in amid tensions between local Serbs who blocked the roads and Kosovo Special Police following Pristina decision to implement a reciprocal measure about changing license plates on vehicles crossing from Serbia.

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