Thursday

7th Jul 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.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

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. Danish ministers no longer allowed to delete text messages
  2. Report: British PM Johnson to resign today
  3. British PM defiant amid spate of resignations
  4. France says EU fiscal discipline rules 'obsolete'
  5. Russia claims untouchable status due to nuclear arsenal
  6. Catalan MEPs lose EU court case over recognition
  7. 39 arrested in migrant-smuggling dragnet
  8. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Johnson quits, leaving Brexit headaches to successor
  2. Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?
  3. EU should freeze all EU funds to Hungary, says study
  4. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  5. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  6. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  7. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  8. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us