Monday

9th Dec 2019

EU reassures Balkans on post-Brexit enlargement

The EU, France and Germany have told Balkan leaders that the UK's exit from the EU would not stop aspirant countries from one day joining the fractured bloc.

French president Francois Hollande and Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel at a summit in Paris on Monday (4 July) told their six Balkan counterparts that enlargement of the European Union would continue.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"The British decision does not in any way put into question commitments made toward countries in the Balkan region. They will be respected," said Hollande.

Merkel issued a similar call of reassurance.

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini said: "It is very important for the European Union to reaffirm the willingness to proceed on the European integration of the Western Balkan countries - all of them”.

Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia are at different stages in the enlargement process.

Serbia’s new chapters

Croatia on Monday agreed to no longer block Serbia from opening two new accession chapters that deal with the rule of law, the judiciary, and human rights.

All EU states, except Croatia, had in April backed the opening of the chapters (23 and 24). But Zagreb at the time had issues with Serbia's treatment of the Croatian minority in Serbia and with its courts jurisdiction war crimes.

Croatia's decision prompted Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, to send out a tweet saying that "#European perspective is real!”.

Hahn at the summit also announced the EU would provide €96 million for three railway infrastructure projects in Serbia, Albania and in Kosovo.

"We will also provide €50 million for greening measures such as energy efficiency in residential buildings and small scale hydro projects," he said.

Brexit ‘earthquake’

The Paris summit is unlikely to have allayed all concerns that the EU will be able to return to business as usual, however.

Serbia's prime minister Aleksandar Vucic described the UK decision "as the biggest political earthquake since the fall of the Berlin wall", reports the Associated Press.

He said the knock-on effects would be felt in Serbia.

"There is no doubt that this will have significant consequences not only in the short but also in the long term. What the EU enlargement policy will be, I cannot tell you at this moment," he added.

He spoke amid a growing pro-Russian sentiment that has taken root in Serbia, Moscow's only strategic ally in the region, with some in Serbia hoping that the UK referendum result would bring EU expansion to a halt.

Bosnia political divisions laid bare in census row

Bosnia must publish much-delayed census data before 1 July, otherwise its EU membership bid could be torpedoed. It could radically alter the quota-based governing system put in place after the war.

Interview

EU warned of Russian 'peril' in Western Balkans

Russia is actively working with “strongholds” of anti-Western sentiment in the Balkans to compete for influence, Montenegro’s prime minister has warned.

Exclusive

France unveils new model EU enlargement

Western Balkan countries should become EU members via a new, step-by-step process, France has said in a detailed proposal seen by EUobserver.

News in Brief

  1. EU agrees future human rights sanctions
  2. Greens demand Zahradil conflict of interest probe
  3. EU commission to 'correct mistake' on enlargement
  4. Luxembourg pushes EU to recognise Palestine
  5. Minister: 'All Brussels kids should be trilingual at 18'
  6. Macron pushes pension reform despite protests
  7. Marin becomes Finland's youngest prime minister
  8. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says

Opinion

EU report recognises Albania's achievements

Albania currently faces a serious crisis, which it would be foolish for all actors in the international community to ignore. Yet we must ask that our partners in Europe read Federica Mogherini's report carefully and recognise accomplishments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us