Friday

13th Dec 2019

Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession

  • Kosovo's top leadership did not attend the summit (Photo: V4 Presidency)

Leaders from the so-called Visegrad Four (V4) group, composed of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, are pressing ahead for the EU's Western Balkan enlargement.

In a joint-statement issued on Thursday (12 September), the V4 are demanding accession talks open this year with North Macedonia and Albania.

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 Visegrad Four group wants to welcome new EU members and it fully endorses the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania this year," Slovak prime minister Peter Pellegrini told reporters at the Balkan-Central European summit in Prague.

Similar statements were made by Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban, but who then framed the need for Western Balkan accession as way to prevent migrants from entering the EU.

The V4 is also seeking an acceleration of negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro under the incoming European Commission headed by Ursula von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen had only earlier this week handed the Commission's enlargement portfolio to Hungary's candidate, Laszlo Trocsanyi, a former justice minister.

Hungary gets enlargement portfolio

Under his watch, Hungary had clashed with the European Commission following measures introduced by Budapest that among other things, booted out the Central European University and criminalised NGOs for helping asylum seekers.

The European Parliament had also triggered an Article 7 sanctions procedure against Hungary for having undermined the rule of law in the country.

With Orban's government having built a vast network of business and political ties in the region, the move to place Trocsanyi as enlargement chief is seen as a coup by Budapest.

It means Trocsanyi will be in charge of ensuring that the Western Balkans seeking to the join the European Union are up to task on issues dealing directly with the rule of law.

The move to kick start talks with North Macedonia and Albania may, however, meet some resistance from the EU's two most powerful members Germany and France.

The two member states, along with other enlargement sceptics, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, had over the summer refrained from backing demands by other foreign ministers to launch such talks.

Thursday's summit in Prague had also been overshadowed by the pro-Russian president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman.

Zeman had earlier in the week following a two-day visit to Serbia announced that the Czech Republic should withdraw its recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign state, accusing its leaders of being "war criminals."

Czech prime minister Andrej Babis later issued a statement, saying he "sees no reason for the Czech government to change its recognition of Kosovo."

The Balkan-Central summit was attended by the leaders of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. Kosovo sent an ambassador.

Those tricky commissioner candidates in full

Three central European commission nominees can expect to feel the heat from MEPs later this month, with the Hungarian candidate emerging as the most controversial.

EU split on Western Balkans accession

Europe's credibility is at risk in the Western Balkans, half its member states have warned - but EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Albania and North Macedonia unlikely to start accession talks soon.

Hungary tops EU anti-fraud investigation list

In its annual report, the EU's anti-fraud agency said it concluded nine investigations into Hungary and found irregularities in seven cases. In total, the agency recommended the recovery of €371m EU-wide.

Column

Habsburg lessons for Europe's foreign policy

The EU is facing similar challenges. Like the Habsburgs, it must work out ways to navigate an increasingly messy geo-political map and stand firm without the advantage of military predominance.

News in Brief

  1. EU Scream podcast wins media award
  2. Sturgeon will set out Scottish independence plan next week
  3. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  4. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  5. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  6. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  7. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  8. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

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

Latest News

  1. EU values face scrutiny This WEEK
  2. EU sighs relief after 'decisive' Johnson victory in UK
  3. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  4. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  5. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  6. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  7. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  8. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us