Ukraine “should have no illusions” about its EU candidacy
On the day that the leaders of the European Union are preparing to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate to join the community bloc, the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, advised the Ukrainians “not to have their hopes up” because the accession process will be very long. “North Macedonia has been a candidate for 16 years and Albania for eight, so welcome to Ukraine,” he joked upon arrival at the summit between EU countries and the Western Balkans.
Rama arrived in Brussels chastened by the blockade that Bulgaria is infringing on Albania and North Macedonia to begin negotiations on their integration into the community club. “In the midst of a very hot war in the backyard of Europe, a NATO country, Bulgaria, kidnaps two other NATO countries, Albania and North Macedonia, under the gaze of 26 EU countries that remain quiet in a show of impotence that is scary,” Rama lamented to the press during his arrival.
Rama had threatened not to attend this meeting, as had the leaders of Serbia and North Macedonia, in protest at the position of Bulgaria, which is not willing to lift its veto to start accession negotiations with Skopje until it recognizes that it has a common history, identity and language with Sofia, and because of the lack of progress in the integration process of the Balkans in the EU.
On the possibility of overcoming Bulgaria’s veto, the high representative of the EU, Josep Borrell, has admitted that “things are not going well”. “We are not where we should be with the Western Balkans,” he said, calling it “disappointing” that Bulgaria’s veto could not be overcome. “This shows once again that unanimity is a big problem in making decisions. We cannot continue with a single country being the blocker,” he remarked.
We are not where we should be with the Western Balkans
The president of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, has demanded a “clear and united message” from the EU on the accession prospects of the Western Balkans. The president claimed that they belong “to the European family” and warned the EU that other actors could occupy the space left “empty” in the region. Osmani also advocated visa liberalization for the country. “It is a great injustice for the people of Kosovo,” she lamented.
In turn, the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, hoped that the meeting with European leaders will end with “good conclusions” for the Western Balkans. However, he stated that if not, they are “grateful” to the EU for the money it spends on the region.
Hopes to overcome Bulgaria’s veto
Faced with the stagnation of the accession of the Western Balkans, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has opted to give a new impetus to the processes and has hoped to be able to overcome the Bulgarian veto “as soon as possible”. “For us it is a top priority,” he said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has argued that the Western Balkans need a “real opportunity” to join the EU. He reiterated that these countries have worked “very hard” and that it is necessary to “make it happen.”
For his part, the Prime Minister of Ireland, Micheál Martin, has stressed that being part of the EU is “transforming” and has waited for “progress” to be made with the Western Balkans. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has said it is “important” that the Western Balkans are “in the European family”.
Years of waiting for the Balkans
For now, only accession negotiations and chapters have been opened with Montenegro and Serbia, despite little progress being made. Albania and North Macedonia are still waiting for Bulgaria to lift its veto on opening negotiations with these two countries. Lastly, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina still have the status of potential candidates.
At the summit, European leaders must provide a response to the impasse in the accession processes of the Western Balkans in a context in which Ukraine’s application for accession advances.