Six countries in the Western Balkans are not yet offered any prospect of membership in the European Union. Countries such as Germany do not want to agree on an accession date with them yet.
Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Kosovo still need to implement many reforms.
The countries have wanted to join the union for years and were repeatedly told encouraging words in the waiting room. The European Commission has already mentioned the year 2025 for the accession of the six. Slovenia, which will chair the EU this six months, devoted Wednesday’s EU summit to the region and wanted to agree that it would be before 2030. But that met great resistance.
“That is actually going too far for everyone,” says outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte afterwards. “Because you want to be sure that when countries become members, they also meet all the requirements. If you now set a date and say: that date is sacred, and not whether you meet the requirements, you run the risk that countries don’t do everything it takes to become a real member.”
Albania and North Macedonia are eager to start negotiations on the required reforms but have not been given permission. Rutte understands their impatience. But he believes that is the fault of Bulgaria, which is thwarting the start of the negotiations because of an old quarrel with North Macedonia. “Today we said with a lot of colleagues, myself included: ‘solve that problem’.”
The fraught term “enlargement” of the EU appears in the declaration with which the leaders concluded the summit but indirectly, with no deadlines or commitments. Even though, according to EU leaders, there is a realization that Russia and China can settle in the area if the EU alienates it. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen once again warns that the union’s persuasiveness and influence threaten to wane if it further tests the patience of the aspiring member states.