#FactOfTheDay 18/05/2018 : EU/Western Balkans Summit – a step towards the next enlargement?

#FactOfTheDay 18/05/2018 : EU/Western Balkans Summit – a step towards the next enlargement?

Yesterday in Sofia, European leaders have formulated a common declaration, supported by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: « This summit has allowed us to forge even closer links with our friends from the Western Balkans who, step by step, each day come a little bit closer to the European Union – each at its own pace and merits. Being anchored in the European Union means sharing values and principles, including respect for the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression – because the European Union is first of all a community of values and law ». Spanish Prime Minister did not attend the meeting because of the presence of Kosovo, whose independence is not recognized by several Member states, including Spain. 

On that occasion, they reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the European perspective. Nothing was formally expressed about these countries potentially entering the EU, nevertheless, President of the European Council Donald Tusk declared « I don’t see any other future for the Western Balkans than the EU. There is no other alternative, there is no plan B. ».

EU leaders want to encourage interconnections with their eastern neighborhood and therefore agreed to take a number of actions to improve energy and transport infrastructure, as well as digital connectivity in the region. They also agreed to strengthen cooperation on migration and security, both sides being confronted to common challenges requiring coordinated efforts.

Officially, the possibility for the Western Balkans to enter the EU should begin to be discussed in June 2018. Member States will have to give their opinion on the opening of negotiations with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as suggested by the European commission. Montenegro (2010) and Serbia (2012) already have the official status of candidate. 

The latest enlargements were contested by a lot of European countries, and this explains why some leaders choose to stay prudent. However, being too prudent with the Balkans could benefit to Russia, China or Turkey. These countries would be able to play an increasing role in the region and ultimately threaten the economic advantage of the EU.   

Marie Peschier

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