EU Reopens Expansion Talks, Keeps an Eye on the Western Balkans

The conflict in Ukraine has placed the expansion of the European Union at the top of the agenda as leaders from the Western Balkans and the EU meet in Albania on Tuesday.

The executive commission of the European Union has repeatedly stated that the six nations in the Western Balkans, which include Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, and Bosnia, have a bright future within the organization. However, their progress has been slower.

Croatia, which is a part of the Balkans, was admitted as a member of the EU in 2013. Romania and Bulgaria also joined in 2007. With the UK's withdrawal from the EU in 2021, the number of member nations has increased to 27.

Despite the various obstacles that the Western Balkans countries face, officials from the EU believe it's important that they are able to make clear that they are part of the European family. This will allow them to avoid turning their frustration toward China and Russia.

During a visit to Serbia last week, Olivér Vrhelyi, the commissioner for the European Union's enlargement policy, noted that the country's membership in the organization was the only long-term solution to the region's problems.

In June, leaders from the European Union agreed to make Ukraine and Moldova candidates for membership. Georgia, on the other hand, will be eligible to join the organization once it meets certain criteria.

After years of delays, the European Union started negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. In October, Bosnia was given candidate status by the commission, which allowed it to move closer to becoming a member of the EU. Despite the criticisms about the way the country is run, it was still given the green light.

After signing an association and stabilization agreement, Kosovo started the first step in its path toward becoming a candidate country.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, stated last week that supporting Georgia, Bosnia, and Moldova was very important during the war in Ukraine. He noted that the region would be better served by stability in Bosnia, which has been plagued by political and ethnic tensions.

Unfortunately, the European Union has not considered the political and economic conditions of the countries in the Western Balkans to be ready for integration into the organization.

According to a researcher at a think tank, none of the countries in the Western Balkans are close to joining the EU. They need to overcome various obstacles to become a part of the organization, such as the standards set by the Copenhagen criteria.

During a meeting in Albania's capital, officials from the EU are expected to discuss the negative effects of the war in Ukraine on the region's food and energy security. In response, the commission's president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that the organization would provide financial assistance to help the countries in the Western Balkans.

According to Vrhelyi, the energy support package that the commission has created would help the region mobilize around 2.5 billion euros.

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, are expected to be a major issue when the leaders of the Western Union meet. Serbian President Vucic threatened to boycott the summit due to the appointment of Albin Kurti as Kosovo's Prime Minister.

During his visit to Serbia, Vrhelyi told Vucic that he would have to align the country's policies with those of the EU in order for it to join the organization at some point. Vucic claimed that he wants to take the country into the organization but has maintained ties with Russia.

Although his country's representatives supported various resolutions passed by the United Nations regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Vucic did not explicitly criticize Moscow. Instead, he stated that his country would not join the sanctions against Russia.

Despite the positive steps that the Western Balkans has made in improving its rule of law, it is still not enough. To be successful, the region's leaders need to align their policies with the EU's foreign policy.

According to him, the leaders of the Western Balkans are expected to discuss the increasing number of asylum-seekers and migrants coming into the region without proper permits.

The process of the Western Balkans' entry into the European Union slowed down after several founding members, such as France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, started to voice their doubts about the organization's expansion. Some of the other factors that contributed to the political unease included the financial crisis of the eurozone and the mass migration that occurred in 2015.

The preceding is a summary of an article that originally appeared on Breitbart.

Written by Staff Reports

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