On 6 July, the Plenary of the European Parliament voted on the 2021 Commission Reports on Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. These votes come two weeks after the European Council also addressed, among other things, EU enlargement. EU Heads of State and Government granted candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and recognised the future perspective of Georgia, a crucial step forward in the context of the new geopolitical landscape, following the invasion of Ukraine, and a potential opportunity to regain the enlargement momentum.
However, the debate on the Western Balkans disappointed the leadership and the people in the region. The lack of commitment to launch accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, paired with the missed opportunity to put pressure on Serbia to align with the sanctions regime on Russia, jeopardise the credibility of the EU’s enlargement policy.
Only a few days ago, the Bulgarian government accepted a proposal from the French Presidency of the Council of the EU to lift its veto on the start of North Macedonia’s EU accession talks. This decision was backed by the North Macedonian government amid public dismay and strong opposition both from political forces and civil society in North Macedonia, as the French proposal includes constitutional changes to ensure protection for Bulgarians living in the country and opens space for bilateral issues in the enlargement process.
In a further development, the French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a new “European political community” to deepen integration between the EU and non-member states, especially candidate countries.
European Movement Serbia: The European Union New Methodology and its long-term impact on accession negotiations
European Commission: Opinion on Ukraine’s application for membership of the European Union
European Parliament: Fact sheet on the Western Balkans
4-7 July: European Parliament’s plenary session
18 July: Foreign Affairs Council
The European Movement International position
As we advocate in our policy position on Promoting peace, stability and investment in the Western Balkans, it is important to maintain a positive enlargement narrative and a proactive and consistent EU involvement in the region, showing citizens and politicians alike that their European trajectory remains on course. With authoritarianism and nationalism in some countries impeding democratic development, the EU should encourage more straightforward and committed reforms to ensure that European values are upheld.
While the Western Balkan countries can count on NATO to extend security and stability, the lack of any sustained EU security policy toward the Western Balkans makes the region vulnerable and can play into the hands of countries such as Russia, China, Turkey and the Gulf States. Therefore, security sector reforms in the region should be fully in line with international and regional standards. As we argue in our position on EU-China relations, by investing in and financing infrastructure, China remains highly relevant for these countries, affecting EU objectives of promoting good governance and sustainable development in the region, especially in the Western Balkans. In response to China’s growing economic involvement and political influence in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Western Balkans, the EU needs to provide an alternative investment programme and a long-term strategy that can promote sustainable development in the region, in particular in the Balkans.