Embracing the EU Accession of the Western Balkan Countries: A Key Question Mark for the EU (cepAdhoc)


Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia: for years, the countries of the Western Balkans (WB6) have been striving to join the European Union. For just as long, the EU has been stalling them, citing rule-of-law and economic deficits. The Centre for European Policy (cep) considers this hesitation dangerous in view of the geopolitically tense situation for Europe and therefore pleads for a quick admission - under changed institutional conditions.


"In order to contain internal proxy conflicts, dangerous external influences or power games in the region, the EU must stop considering the enlargement process of the Western Balkans as non-urgent," demands Eleonora Poli, senior cep researcher in Rome. She has analysed the current state of the enlargement process in detail. "Considering the level of integration that the six Western Balkan states have already achieved, their membership should not be a bigger task than that of Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia," says the cep expert. Eleonora Poli believes there is no alternative to rapid enlargement. For this to happen, however, the necessary reforms would have to be pushed ahead and the institutional framework, i.e. the EU laws, would have to be adapted. Otherwise, there is a risk of dangerous conflicts between internal stability and external geopolitical influence.  


Eleonora Poli is critical of the French proposal for a multi-speed Europe. "This bears the danger of creating a Europe of first and second class members." Instead, she says, there is an urgent need to reconcile the issue of internal stability with the EU's external challenges and to reform the EU's institutional framework. Eleonora Poli explicitly presses for speed: "In view of the conflict-ridden dynamics on the international level, it is urgent for the EU to tackle enlargement to the Western Balkans not in the future, but already now."