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“We are not where we should be with the Western Balkans. Today is not a good day,” admitted the head of European diplomacy, Joseph Borrellat the extraordinary summit between the leaders of the EU and the Balkans held this Thursday before the European Council.

What had been planned as a meeting to give new impetus to the process of accession to the European Union of the countries of the region, has ended up becoming a battle of reproaches and crossed vetoes. A total blockade that has prevented even the most urgent decisions from being taken: starting accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania or lifting the visa requirement for Kosovo citizens traveling to the EU. The final press conference of the meeting has been canceled.

The leaders of the Balkan countries have called on the Heads of State and Government of the 27 that they are not relegated to the benefit of Ukraine, a country that has been granted accession candidate status in record time as a sign of political support in the face of Russian aggression. The Balkans feel discriminated against by this preferential treatment towards kyiv. The EU promised them a European perspective at the Thessaloniki summit in 2003, but after almost 20 years this offer has not materialised. In addition, now Ukraine overtakes them.

[La candidatura de Kiev pone a prueba la capacidad de la UE de absorber a más miembros]

Montenegro and Serbia have been negotiating with Brussels for years, but Belgrade’s prospects are hampered by its constant confrontation with Kosovo and its rapprochement with the Russia of Vladimir Putin. In fact, the Serbs have not aligned themselves with the EU sanctions against Moscow, one of the flashpoints at the EU-Balkans summit.

“We have always voted against aggression against Ukraine in the UN General Assembly. We support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, just as we support the territorial integrity of Serbia, which many EU member states do not do. It is a very complicated issue“, the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, justified upon his arrival at the meeting.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has lashed out at European leaders for blocking his country’s bid

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For its part, North Macedonia was recognized as a candidate country in 2005 and Albania in 2014. But the EU has not yet opened accession negotiations with either of the two, which are now treated as an indivisible package. First, because of the name dispute between North Macedonia and Greece. And then because of bilateral problems between Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

The French presidency of the EU has worked until the last minute to get Bulgaria to lift the veto it holds alone and thus send a positive signal to the Balkans on the same day that Ukraine’s candidacy was recognized. But the fall in the last hours of the pro-European government of Kiril Petkov has prevented the agreement. “This shows that unanimity is a big problem in making decisions,” Borrell complained.

For his part, the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, has attacked Bulgaria, but also against the rest of the European partners for allowing this blockade, which has lasted for years. “It is a shame that a NATO country kidnaps two other NATO countriesAlbania and Macedonia, in the midst of a hot war in Europe’s backyard, with 26 other countries standing by in a terrifying show of helplessness,” Rama said.

“North Macedonia has been a candidate for 18 years, if I haven’t lost count, and Albania for 8. I welcome Ukraine. It’s a good thing to give it candidate status, but I hope that Ukrainian citizens do not have many illusions about it“, said the Albanian Prime Minister.

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani poses with Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and Emmanuel Macron

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani poses with Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and Emmanuel Macron

EU

Bosnia and Kosovo do not even have the status of candidates to join the EU, they are “potential candidates”. In the case of Bosnia, in Brussels there is great concern about the growing instability in the country, the lack of reforms and the interference of Russia. As for Kosovo, there are five Member States (Spain, Greece, Romania, Cyprus and Slovakia) they don’t even recognize their independencewhich further complicates things.

The Kosovar President, Vjosa Osmani, has criticized the fact that the EU continues without lifting the visa requirement for citizens of his country, despite the fact that Brussels recommended it 4 years ago after verifying that all the requirements were met. Osmani has also complained about Serbia’s pro-Russian drift, which in his opinion harms the Balkans as a whole.

“Until now, and this is unfortunate, Serbia has shown no willingness to fully align itself with the EU on sanctions against Russia. In this way, in addition to damaging their European perspective, they are harming the rest of the region because they are allowing Russia’s influence to increase in the region as a whole, which harms long-term peace and stability,” says Osmani. .

Pedro Sánchez, during the summit between the EU and the Balkan countries

Pedro Sánchez, during the summit between the EU and the Balkan countries

EU

I don’t see any harm for the Western Balkans if Ukraine and Moldova move (towards the EU). On the contrary, by opening its doors to Ukraine and Moldova, the EU is sending a strong message that this is of geostrategic importance, that this is a political decision. And that is exactly what the Balkans need too,” says the president of Kosovo.

“I hope that at the same time as Ukraine and Moldova move forward – at the same time – the EU will understand that we, who are part of the heart of Europe, also deserve to move forward. Because if the EU does not offer a clear and unified signal to the Balconies, other evil actors will use this empty spaceOsmani has warned in reference to Russia, but also to China.

Russia-Ukraine War

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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