European Parliament Rapporteur for Montenegro Tonino Picula has said that the EU must abandon the concept of soft aid and start conditioning financial aid to states upon progress in democratization.
In an interview with Radio Free Europe, Picula said that independent analysts' reports indicated that since 2014 the EU had spent EUR700 million on strengthening democratic institutions in the region, but that the effort simply had not yielded results.
"The EU would have to develop a conditioning mechanism in all those cases where that money is not producing the desired results due to resistance from political elites or a worsening of the situation regarding the state of human rights, backsliding of democratic institutions, and jeopardizing of media freedom," said Picula.
In those cases the EU should react more decisively and stop the payment of those funds, said Picula, adding, "that is the only language various autocrats understand." Picula, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia, said that there was obvious neglect of democratic institutions in all Western Balkan states, partly due to internal reasons and partly due to a vacuum in the EU enlargement policy.
"When there is a lack of visions typical of the European project, then the political opportunism of many member states is at play. There's Bulgaria, which has been disputing the start of negotiations with North Macedonia, but some older members of the EU, such as France and the Netherlands, are also contributing to a blockade of the enlargement policy. The EU is facing internal problems and that is why it does not have the strength for new enlargement," said Picula.