Thursday

30th Jun 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 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.

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.

Bulgaria calls for West Balkan EU integration after Brexit

The UK leaving the EU gives an opportunity to bring the Western Balkans closer, Bulgaria's PM said in Brussels. Bulgaria will hold the upcoming rotating presidency, while Juncker said Serbia and Montenegro will be EU members by 2025.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. New president for European Committee of the Regions
  2. Gas flows from Spain to Morocco, after Western Sahara row
  3. BioNTech, Pfizer test 'universal' coronavirus vaccine
  4. UK sanctions second-richest Russian businessman
  5. Hungary permits emergency supervision of energy firms
  6. Bulgaria expels 70 alleged Russian spies
  7. EU Commission told to improve CAP data analytics
  8. Scotland pushes for second independence vote in 2023

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  2. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  4. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic think tank examines influence of tech giants

Latest News

  1. Nato expands and reinforces on Russian flank
  2. EU Commission says it cannot find messages with Pfizer CEO
  3. EU ministers sign off on climate laws amid German infighting
  4. EU presidency still looking for asylum relocation pledges
  5. Finland and Sweden to join Nato, as Erdoğan drops veto
  6. The euro — who's next?
  7. One rubicon after another
  8. Green crime-fighting boss urgently required, key MEP says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us