EU membership: Ukraine can rejoice, the Balkan states express their frustration



Ukraine now official candidate: Balkan states vent frustration at EU

Kyiv is granted the status of candidate country by the European Union. In the second geopolitical project, the Western Balkans, however, the EU countries must be accused of failure.

May be happy: Ukrainian protester before the EU summit in Brussels.

Image: Keystone

It was a happy day for Ukraine: at the meeting of the 27 heads of state and government of the EU on Thursday in Brussels, the country received the status of candidate for EU membership. In the same process, the Republic of Moldova also obtained candidate status.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the decision on Twitter “historic”.

When the first chapters of the accession negotiations can be opened, it is written in the stars. Ukraine still needs to do its homework and implement reforms in the areas of the rule of law and corruption. And even then, it takes a unanimous decision from Heads of State and Government for things to really get going.

Here is der Leyen’s reaction:

Frustrating: Balkan has been on hold for almost 20 years

These two examples show how long it can take: North Macedonia has been a candidate for membership for 17 years and is waiting for the start of negotiations. Albania has been dragging in the antechamber for eight years. Again and again, both countries must be put off by EU heads of state and government.

The reason for this is that the accession process is often exploited for domestic political purposes: sometimes it is not politically expedient to let the Western Balkan countries come closer to the community, as was the case after Brexit. Greece freezes the times due to the dispute over the name of the region of origin of Alexander the Great.

And now it is Bulgaria which intervenes and demands that the Macedonians recognize their language as a simple dialect of Bulgarian.

All attempts to forge a compromise at the last minute had failed. More recently, the Bulgarian government led by progressive Prime Minister Kiril Petkov was overthrown in the parliament in Sofia on Wednesday evening. Not only, but also because of the previously expressed intention to offer a helping hand in the North Macedonia conflict.

Not in a good mood at all: Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski and Serbian President Alexander Vucic.

Not in a good mood at all: Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski and Serbian President Alexander Vucic.


Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama did not hold back with clear words: “What a shame for Europe,” Rama said on the sidelines of the summit and added frustrated:

“Allow me to express my deep regret: I am sorry for the EU”.

You have to imagine this: with Bulgaria, a NATO country is holding two other NATO countries hostage (Albania and North Macedonia) and the remaining 26 EU states are just standing by. crusaders in their “helplessness”, according to Rama. After the pandemic, even the bloody war in Ukraine could not have brought Europeans to unity.

His North Macedonian counterpart, Dimitar Kovacevski, said the same thing in principle, but with a little more diplomacy: “What is happening here is a serious problem and a major loss of credibility for the European Union”.

Balkan states feel bitterly neglected

In fact, the heads of state and government of the EU must be blamed for having failed in their second geopolitical project in the Western Balkans, alongside Ukraine. And they have been doing it for years: not only are they failing to open the overdue accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Kosovo is also waiting for the long-promised visa freedom, for which Pristina has long since met all the criteria. Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the face of Russian destabilization attempts, does not even have candidate status.

Even if nobody wants to say it publicly, the feeling in the Balkans of being neglected by the EU while Ukraine enjoys preferential treatment is clearly palpable. In any case, Edi Rama warned Ukrainians not to “have too many illusions”.

It is far from true that there are no problems in the Western Balkans which would hamper enlargement. Serbia, for example, which has been negotiating membership with Brussels since 2014, has taken significant steps backwards on the rule of law and media freedom in recent years under President Alexander Vucic. Moreover, Vucic’s shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and the EU and the failure to adopt sanctions against Russia are causing a lot of resentment among EU states.

For his part, Vucic is not particularly impressed by the critics. Asked about the slowness of the accession process and Ukraine’s rapid progress, he simply replied to journalists in Brussels on Thursday: “We respect each other more than the others”.


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