Tuesday

19th Jun 2018

Bulgaria calls for West Balkan EU integration after Brexit

  • Juncker (r) greeted Borissov (l) in the EU Commission's Berlaymont HQ (Photo: European Commission)

Bulgaria, which will hold the upcoming presidency of the EU Council, will push for the Western Balkan countries to be able to move closer to the EU in the next six months.

Visiting Brussels with his cabinet on Wednesday (8 November), Bulgaria's prime minister Boyko Borissov told reporters that Brexit provides a chance to be more open towards the six nations on course to join the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

"This really is an opportunity for us to bring the Western Balkan on board as the UK withdraws from the EU, " Borissov said at a joint press conference with EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Borissov argued that with Austria and Romania following Bulgaria as presidencies of the EU Council - all countries that are familiar with the Western Balkans - now is the right time to allow the region to move closer to the bloc.

"I think it is important and it is possible for us to have a decision taken on that [European] perspective. If we don't take a risk, we never make progress," Borissov said.

He added that that there is "no real risk" to the EU in bringing the Western Balkans closer, while there are possibilities for investment.

Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have been progressing at different speeds with the accession process, but the slow pace of progress have given way to some disillusionment in the region with the EU.

Juncker reiterated that enlargement is not realistic before 2019.

"For the moment it doesn't look possible for us to take in new members in 2019, I would like the European perspective to be seen not as an invitation, but as a continental necessity," Juncker told reporters.

He later added that Serbia and Montenegro will be members of the EU before 2025.

Next May Sofia will host an EU summit attended by the the six Western Balkan leaders.

Bulgaria also aims to bring more EU funds to the region.

"The Western Balkans need much more attention, if we have a gap there, it will be filled by others, such as Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia," an EU source argued recently.

The Bulgarian presidency will also focus on the digital market, cyber security, migration, competitiveness, and the seven-year EU budget.

Despite Bulgaria fulfilling all the technical criteria, along with Romania, it has not been able to join the Schengen passport-free zone, due to fears of migration mainly from the Netherlands, Germany and France.

"[The] normal and natural place for Bulgaria is within the Schengen space," Juncker said, arguing that the country be allowed into the zone.

Bulgaria has the longest land border with Turkey, and has played a major role in the migration crises.

Its officials point out that despite being one the frontline states, it is unable to upload data to the Schengen Information System, a database for combating cross-border crimes, and which issues alerts on missing and wanted people.

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.

Bulgaria's president vetoes anti-corruption bill

Bulgaria is starting its six-month EU presidency amid attempts to shake off issues of corruption and poor press freedoms. Earlier this week, Bulgaria's president vetoed an anti-graft bill, claiming it was too weak.

Opinion

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

As EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, their reluctance to use their diminishing leverage with Ankara means his dismantling of Turkey's democracy only speeds up.

News in Brief

  1. EU court orders Le Pen to repay EU parliament
  2. Commission needs time to assess German Dieselgate fine
  3. Merkel and Macron meet over migration and eurozone
  4. Salvini plans census of Roma communities
  5. Slovenia to take Croatia to court in border row
  6. Parliamentary setback over corruption in Romania
  7. Lords force new vote for UK parliament to influence Brexit
  8. Report: Audi CEO arrested over Dieselgate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us