Friday

23rd Feb 2018

EU 'perspective' for 'fragile' Western Balkans

  • Belgrade: nationalist train stunt came in run-up to (Photo: Milos Milosevic)

EU leaders aim to pledge “unequivocal support for the European perspective” of the Western Balkans at Thursday's summit.

A draft of the meeting's conclusions, seen by EUobserver, also said that they aimed to discuss the “fragile situation” in the region at their dinner in Brussels.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Mogherini said on Monday that Western Balkans risked becoming a geopolitical "chessboard" (Photo: Wolfgang Klotz/Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung)

It said “the EU remains committed to the region and engaged at all levels, to support stability and to deepen political and economic ties”.

It also urged the six Western Balkan states to pursue reforms and to keep “good neighbourly relations”.

An EU diplomat said the statement was designed to send a double message to Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

On one hand, to reassure them of their “EU prospect”, but on the other hand to warn them to curb nationalist rhetoric, anti-democratic abuses, corruption, and trafficking.

“Don’t think that the EU prospect gives you rights if you do nothing”, the diplomat said.

The summit statement will add little to the EU’s previous and more binding promises of future accession to Albania and to the former Yugoslavian states.

But leaders wanted to draw attention to the region due to a recent flare-up in ethnic and nationalist tensions.

Ethnic Albanians and Macedonians have brought Macedonia to a standstill in a political crisis. Kosovo and Serbia recently threatened to use force in a dispute over a Serb train painted with nationalist slogans.

EU states are increasingly concerned by assertive Russian, Turkish, and Gulf Arab state behaviour in the region on top of its internal problems.

“There is a growing understanding that bad things are happening there. External factors from the east make things bad,” an EU diplomat said.

Russia is believed to have played a role in a failed anti-Nato coup in Montenegro last year and to be playing a "destabilising" role in Balkan politics more broadly.

Some EU diplomats also saw its hand in the nationalist and pro-Russian heckling of EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini at her speech last week in the Serbian parliament.

Turkey is trying to gain political influence in the region.

Arab states are trying spread a hardline vision of Islam in some Balkan Muslim societies, which have sent relatively high numbers of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.

Neither Russia, Turkey, nor Arab states were named in the draft EU summit conclusions as of Wednesday evening, however.

One of the EU diplomats said the EU needed to send a “political signal” to “stabilise” the Balkans region.

But EU leaders do not plan to have a substantial discussion on the Western Balkan enlargement progress on Thursday despite their declaration of “unequivocal support”.

Another senior EU diplomat said that EU credibility in the region was falling due to inertia in the accession process.

“The Union was not able to send credible messages to this region, enlargement negotiations are slow. It’s discouraging,” he said.

Serb minister love-bombs EU

The EU and Serbia have moved a step closer despite regional tensions, with a Serb minister calling the EU "the best place in the world".

German-Turkish tensions rise over cancelled campaign events

Two German towns cancelled campaign events by Turkish ministers to rally support for Erdogan's consitutional reform amid escalating tensions between the two countries over the detention of a prominent German-Turkish journalist.

Investigation

Few, but fanatics: The Kosovo women who join IS

In a generational shift in Kosovo, a largely secular and pro-Western society, Islamic radicalisation is making inroads. And it’s not just young men who join Islamic State.

Opinion

EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy

Not extending the EU fisheries deal with Morocco to fish off the disputed coast of Western Sahara could deprive the Sahrawi people of much-needed income - and throw into question future EU foreign policy in the name of human rights.

EU warns Turkey over 'threat' to Cyprus

The European Commission called on Ankara to refrain from doing "damage to good neighbourly relations", after Turkish vessels stop a rig from reaching a gas drilling zone.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  2. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  3. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  4. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  5. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  6. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  7. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  8. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  8. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  11. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  2. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  3. European far-right political party risks collapse
  4. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  5. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  6. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  7. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  8. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court