The European Commission has issued a "road map" for the expansion of the European Union at the expense of the Balkan countries. So far, Serbia and Montenegro remain the main candidates for membership. One of the reasons for the increased attention of Brussels to the Balkans is an attempt to neutralize the geopolitical influence of Russia and China, Brussels said.
The new "road map" was announced by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Khan. The document touches on the main points around the likely accession to the EU of six countries - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.
Montenegro and Serbia are the closest to the accession. These countries can become part of the EU already by 2025. But this is not a strict deadline.
Brussels insists that the Balkan countries undertake reforms to combat corruption and adhere to the transparency of the judicial system. "Accession to the EU is more than a technical procedure. This is a generational choice based on the fundamental values that each individual country must respect, both within its external course and at the level of regional politics, up to the level of instruction in schools, "the road map» stresses.
Just a few years ago European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker approved a moratorium on the accession of new countries to the EU, but now the European Commission has decided to open the doors for the Balkan countries. The reasons for the increased interest of Brussels to this region are two. First, the EU is trying to seize the initiative from Russia and China, which, like Brussels, are looking for opportunities to strengthen their influence in the Balkans. "The geopolitical influence of Russia, China and Turkey in the Balkans is growing. In Brussels, they believe that it is necessary to ensure that the EU's influence remains dominant.
Secondly, stability in the Balkans is a guarantee of the well-being of the European Union, especially in the context of the migration crisis. It is through this region that refugees, Islamists and criminals come to Europe. "The countries of the Western Balkans have a historic window of opportunity to link their future with the European Union. Now they must do their utmost to use this opportunity», the document says.
Europeans are doomed to devote more time to the Balkans, experts say. They believe that the Balkans is a very turbulent region, suffering from ethnic conflicts and criminality, and therefore the European Union has long been seeking opportunities and tools for its stabilization. The Balkans is also a transit region, so it should be integrated into the EU energy infrastructure.
However, a number of obstacles stand in the way of joining the Balkan countries to the EU. In addition to internal reforms, six candidates will have to adjust their foreign policy in such a way that it coincides with the EU's policy. This, in turn, can cause difficulties for Serbia. After all, earlier in Belgrade they declared about the inadmissibility of applying sanctions against Russia.
Finally, the European Union wants to achieve the completion of any unresolved conflicts between the candidate countries and their neighbors. This requirement applies to Serbia, which has not yet established formal relations with Kosovo. Difficulties may arise in the conflict with Greece Macedonia.
At the end of February, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will go on a tour of the Balkans to personally communicate with the leadership of the countries. European Commission President will visit Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje and Tirana. The Juncker tour will finish in Bulgaria, the country presiding over this semester in the EU Council.
The risk of importing the problems of the Balkans exists, but in general the decision of the European Union to open for these countries the possibility of closer cooperation is justified, experts say. The Balkans are adapting to the EU and implementing the European rules of the game for a long time.
According to experts, the Balkans, of course, will be a rather backward region on the general background of the EU, and will also require additional investments from Brussels. But the rapprochement of these countries with the European Union will allow the latter to more successfully control and correct the situation in the Balkans.