Western Balkan Nations Told to Work Harder to Join EUPolitics | February 16, 2018, Friday // 13:54| views
The European Union on Friday told six Western Balkan nations seeking membership that they would have to implement difficult reforms before they can be allowed to join the wealthy bloc, according to Reuters.
Worried about growing Russian and Chinese influence in the Balkans, the EU has launched a new integration campaign, giving Serbia and Montenegro a tentative accession date of 2025.
They say the candidates - which also include Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia - must improve their democratic credentials and root out graft and organized crime.
Germany leads the skeptics’ camp, highlighting continued problems with corruption and the rule of law in countries that have joined the EU since 2004, including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
“It is important to move forward, but on both sides. We need to be open and we need to ask for a lot of reforms,” said Belgium’s Didier Reynders.
Regional disputes also hamper the accession process, with Serbia - and some EU member states - refusing to recognize the independence of Kosovo, and Macedonia still locked in a name dispute with its southern neighbor Greece.
Spain, where a standoff between the central government in Madrid and Catalan separatists has intensified in recent months, is among five EU states that do not recognize Kosovo.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said he hoped recent diplomatic efforts would soon lead to a compromise over his country’s name with Greece, which has been blocking Skopje’s EU bid. Greece says using the name ‘Macedonia’ implies a territorial claim on a northern Greek province of the same name.
His Albanian colleague, Ditmir Bushati, said the region needed EU development money, not only advice on strengthening democracy.
“Rule of law comes first but there is no rule of law without economic development,” he said.