The relationship between the European Union and the Western Balkans comes down to the exchange of diplomatic platitudes and signatures on agreements of intent while very little actual progress is made, Valeska Esch of the Aspen Institute stated on Oct. 6.
That some EU members are generally leery of enlargement to the Balkans is nothing new, but their voices have recently been joined by others, dissatisfied with the region’s reform efforts, Esch said in an interview for Deutsche Welle.
“In the past few years, the so-called spearheads of the enlargement process – Serbia and Montenegro – have regressed rather than progressed in democracy and the rule of law, both of which are extremely important to many EU members. This has added to the skepticism,” she explained.
Esch is not convinced that a joint European market would be an adequate substitute for EU enlargement, especially given that the road to the former would also be long and would require rule of law reforms. In her opinion, the absence of a clear European future is also the cause of the lackluster dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
According to Esch, another hurdle in the enlargement process is the fact that five EU states have not recognized Kosovo, forcing the Union into a neutral position and preventing the formulation of clear negotiation goals beyond “normalization.” “On the other hand, some EU members have clearly told Serbia that it must recognize Kosovo if it wants to join the Union,” Esch concluded.