The EU is linked closely with countries of the Western Balkan. Aiming toward securing stability, prosperous and well-functioning societies with stress on democratic values to bring whole region on a steady path towards full integration. Conditions were set down in the Council Conclusions of April 1997 to achieve contractual relations. Two years later, the Council established the Stabilization and Association Process (SAP). Countries of the Western Balkan would be eligible for EU membership if they meet so called Copenhagen criteria, established in June 1993. Determination of the EU was confirmed as continuing whole process of integration by Thessaloniki Declaration (EU-Western Balkans Summit, 2003). The EU’s approach in comprehensive way of policies and instruments as: the Stabilization and Association Process, the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defense Policy. Through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance the EU is aiding with financial help. Each autumn, the European Commission adopts annual reports of Enlargement Strategy and Progress Reports on individual countries. Within the SAP, regional cooperation and good neighbourlly relations are essential for stability and reconciliation. In short this is what the EU is giving toward the process of WB integration into Union. Next what I would like to stress is so called „enlargement fatigue“ which is conserning both sides of the topic.
Jean-Claude Juncker’s campaign pledge in EU Parliament elections (May 2014) was that „there will be no further EU enlargement for at least next five years“. According to Juncker’s statement the main question is emerging: Are all EU candidate countries (Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) ready to wait? And to add not yet official recognised as candidates Bosnia and Kosovo to whole package of possible next enlargement.The main question is brought up toward both sides (EU and WB).
Statement from Edi Rama, the Prime Minister of Albania. He warned that:“Enlargement fatigue is one side of the story, but patience fatigue is another. I’m sure no-one in the Balkans is willing to wait for decades.”
To that it is possible to raise new questions, such as: do really Western Balkan wants to join the EU while there is still ongoing crisis? Will be this new region ready to toughen up, improve (mostly public sector) and be ready to contribute? Can countries learn from previous enlargements (Slovenia and mostly Croatia)? Are there other more tempting actors with similar or the same interests in the region? Many other questions can be raised but this is just small glimpse of complicated situation and many factors that are involved. So far in my opinion this 5 year pause I see as new test for the EU as major actor (I believe that only strong actors can make difference) in concluding its best foreign policy tool, enlargement. One can argue that it is not the case, but I see this as the last big challange for the EU where it should show determination once again. Not only that but with being sure and commited to somerthing what you call of your own, is showing the strenght to other major actors and standing to your own credibility (still, EU has a lot to prove).
I will continue to contribute on this topic and other related issues concerning Western Balkan’s integration to the EU.