EU Growing Impatient with Western Balkans over ‘Reluctance’ to Reform, Commissioner Says
The leaders of the EU member states are growing impatient with the unwillingness of the EU candidate countries from the Western Balkans to carry out the necessary reforms, Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has warned.
Speaking at a summit for the Western Balkans held in London, he stated the prospective EU member states from that part of Europe were failing to address crucial issues such as the problems with the rule of law.
“In all these countries I face a certain reluctance to address properly rule of law issues. It is a must for the EU,” Hahn said, as quoted by The Guardian.
“I admit our member states are becoming more and more impatient on this issue because they see this is as crucial – the fight against corruption, media reform and independence of judiciary,” he elaborated.
The EU Commissioner for Enlargement made it clear that the failure of the Western Balkan states to implement the necessary reforms were threatening their chance of joining the European Union by 2025.
Regardless of the problems, however, Hahn insisted that the integration of countries such as Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo with the EU was a chance to export stability to the entire region.
He added that the preservation of the status quo would result in the import of instability into the EU.
The London summit in which EU Enlargement Commissioner Hahn participated is part of the so called Berlin Process launched five years ago, which is supposed to help the Western Balkan countries on their path towards EU membership in areas such as economic reforms, security, and the rule of law.
The London summit looked into how the promise of accession negotiations with the EU is influencing the political situation in the Western Balkans.
One key precondition for accession talks is the resolution of all disputes a prospective candidate may have with its neighbors.
Last month, Greece and Macedonia took a giant step towards resolving their so called “name dispute” in which the former had been disagreeing with the latter’s name since a region in Northern Greece is also named Macedonia.
Greece has thus been blocking Macedonia’s motions to join the European Union and NATO.
In June 2018, the governments of the two countries agreed that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should adopt the name “Republic of Northern Macedonia”.
However, the agreement is still facing resistance in Greece, and is yet to be approved by the population of Macedonia in a referendum scheduled for September 2018.
“The ultimate goal is to be a European democracy, but it is really high time our region stepped it up and took responsibility. We do not have the luxury of missing a golden opportunity,” said Nikola Dimitrov, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister.
“We have been locked in the waiting room for some time, but we are now running after a train, even if we are not quite sure in what direction,” he added, referring to last month’s decision by the EU to start accession talks with Macedonia and Albania next summer.
“Perhaps those inside forget how cold it is outside,” Dimitrov commented when asked why Macedonia wanted to join the EU at the time of Brexit, i.e. the UK’s departure from the Union.
The Guardian comments that the Western Balkans Summit in London had been seen as a chance by the UK to demonstrate its commitment to European security in spite of Brexit.
However, those intentions were dealt a blow by Monday’s resignation of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
His successor, Jeremy Hunt, participated in the second day of the summit, along with British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini.
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