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‘Not here and now’ for the EU’s Balkans

Montenegro has been negotiating EU membership for nine years. Serbia in seven. Albania and North Macedonia are still waiting to get started, while Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina haven’t even come so far.

However, there is still hope for the six countries to one day become part of the European Union.

– I ask the European Union not to be afraid and not to feel bitterness on the Balkan side. I remain hopeful, said Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti at the summit on Wednesday between the European Union and the Balkan countries.

There is no timetable

However, the road to the European Union is slow and complicated. Many EU countries clearly indicate that more incubated newcomers are needed before they can be accepted.

Slovenia, the head of the European Union in Slovenia, struggled to deliver on a promise of membership by 2030, but was met with a lukewarm hand.

– I don’t really believe in scheduling. I believe in keeping our promises. Once the conditions are met, entry can take place, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at her post-summit press conference.

Repairs required

Stefan Lofven is of the same opinion and points out the benefits of cooperation with countries that the European Union already has and is expanding rapidly.

– As long as there is cooperation and it develops – I mean it is – the necessary reforms will also be implemented. It’ll take some time, but they’ll be in place gradually, Lovin tells TT and Ekot after the summit in Brdo outside Ljubljana in Slovenia.

In many current EU countries, there is a strong concern about prematurely accepting new members. Bulgaria and Romania are cautionary examples and still lag behind the rest of the European Union, both economically and legally, despite the fact that the two countries became members of the European Union as early as 2007.

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old quarrels

The last time the EU expanded was when Croatia was admitted in 2013.

The fact that countries like Serbia and Montenegro have not officially come together is due to the fact that they do not meet the requirements laid out in various parts of the negotiations, in everything from the fight against corruption to the judicial system and the environment. Policies. Also, Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as its state, which also complicates the situation.

– Without resolving issues with Pristina (the capital of Kosovo), Serbia will not be able to join the European Union, said the country’s President Aleksandar Vucic at his press conference after the summit.

As for North Macedonia, there is a long-running dispute with Bulgaria over language and history.

These old differences must be respected, but resolved. Otherwise, Lovin says, it would be difficult.

statement – statement

Wednesday’s summit culminated in a long statement from the European Union that includes promises of continued financial investment and a number of different aspects of cooperation.

The support for the “European perspective” of the Balkan countries is also emphasized here.

“The European Union reaffirms its commitments in the enlargement process,” the statement said.

At the same time, Stefan Lofven realizes that the Balkan countries are disappointed.

Yes, but it is clear that they want this to continue in the way that they think is best. This is not strange. Prime Minister Brdo says he is not here and now, but that is far in the future.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not want to give a timetable for when the western Balkan countries will become members of the European Union. Photo: Petr David Josek/AP/TT

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven after the European Union summit on Wednesday in Brdo, Slovenia.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven after the European Union summit on Wednesday in Brdo, Slovenia. Photo: Wiktor Nummelin / TT

Montenegro president Milo Djukanovic corrects the tie before the Slovenian summit.  In the background, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appears during talks with his Portuguese colleague Antonio Costa.

Montenegro president Milo Djukanovic corrects the tie before the Slovenian summit. In the background, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appears during talks with his Portuguese colleague Antonio Costa. Photo: Darko Bandic/AP/TT

Facts: The European Union and the Balkans

The Balkan countries have gradually moved closer to the European Union over the past 20 years:

* Member of Slovenia since 2004.

* Bulgaria and Romania – members since 2007.

* Croatia – member since 2013.

* Montenegro and Serbia – Negotiating membership since 2012 and 2014, respectively.

* Albania and North Macedonia – Promised negotiations, but waiting for the official start.

*Bosnia and Herzegovina – applied for membership in 2016, but has not yet been granted candidate status.

* Kosovo – seen as a “potential candidate”, despite the fact that five EU countries have yet to recognize the country as an independent state.