Judy Asks: Is the EU Sleeping on the Western Balkans?
The EU is not sleeping, but it is moving and acting all too slowly in the region’s new geopolitical environment.
The commitment made at the EU summit in Thessaloniki in June 2003—that all Western Balkan countries should become full EU member states when they fulfill all the requirements—stands firm. Croatia’s accession in 2013 proves the commitment.
There never was going to be another enlargement under the watch of the current European Commission. The commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, ruled that out for domestic purposes when he entered office in November 2014. The EU’s soft power continues to be effective in the Western Balkans, which are a kind of geographic inner courtyard of the EU and NATO. All the countries of the region want to join.
Yet the EU must do more. The stagnation of Macedonia and of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a case in point. Macedonia has been a candidate country since 2005 and has not budged. This has produced nefarious, dangerous domestic dynamics whose negative results are now being witnessed.
The EU needs to be much more proactive and engage in moving the process of negotiation forward more robustly. The so-called Berlin Process launched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in August 2014 provides a framework for future enlargement and is a step in the right direction. This process is ultimately about the EU’s overall credibility. There will be no new wars in the Balkans, but that is not enough.