PRESS RELEASE | EU must seize the geopolitical moment to integrate the Western Balkans - Report

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Peace, Security & Defence

BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 7 – The European Union must speed up the integration of the Western Balkans into the Union to prevent Russia and other hostile powers exploiting instability in the region to undermine the West, a report published by Friends of Europe on Wednesday said.

Amid increased tension between Serbia and Kosovo which risks sparking political violence, Seize the geopolitical moment: the Western Balkans and European security,” authored by Paul Taylor, a Senior Fellow at the Brussels-based think-tank – Friends of Europe – says fresh momentum” is urgently needed in the EUs long stalled accession process.

Despite disillusionment across the region at the snail’s pace of progress since the EU first gave them a membership perspective in 2003, EU accession remains the best imaginable outcome for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, and for the rest of Europe. The EU still enjoys strong public support almost everywhere except in Serbia.

EU leaders and the European Commission must seize this geopolitical moment to make the enlargement perspective credible for all Western Balkan countries. They also need to counter the impression that granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova came at their expense,” Taylor writes.

If EU enlargement fails, alternatives could be closer alignment with Russia and China, the emergence of a non-aligned illiberal zone stretching from Hungary to Turkey, or a descent into new armed conflicts involving a toxic mixture of organized crime and weaponized migration. All would be fraught with danger for the EU and NATO, Taylor says.

There is a dangerous folly in some west European capitals, notably Paris and The Hague, where “enlargement fatigue” is strongest, that the status quo is manageable and that nothing can happen in the Western Balkans that would pose a serious threat to European security.

France and Germany have insisted the EU must reform its own decision-making system to scrap national vetoes in key policy areas before new members can be admitted. Using the enlargement process to accelerate change in EU decision-making creates a high hurdle for enlargement, as many smaller, northern and eastern EU states oppose giving up the unanimity principle.

Most Western Balkans countries are a long way from EU membership in terms of their governance, rule of law and democratic standards”, the report says, analysing why reforms have stalled due to state capture, corruption, lagging economic development, and the absence of a credible prospect of joining the Union in the foreseeable future.

The report is the 11th in a Friends of Europe series on European security and defence issues. It was based on more than 40 interviews with ministers and officials in governments, the European Union and NATO, international organisations, the military, the European Parliament, diplomacy, universities, think-tanks and civil society in Europe and the United States.

It was launched during Friends of Europes EU-Western Balkans Summit, held just one day after the official EU-Western Balkans Summit in Tirana.



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For more information or to interview the author please contact Seán Flynn, Press Officer at Friends of Europe below:


Seán Flynn | Press Officer

Friends of Europe

+353 86 064 4317




About Friends of Europe:

We are an independent think tank with a difference. We connect people, stimulate debate and trigger change to create a more inclusive, sustainable and forward-thinking Europe.


About the Balkan Journey:

Development prospects need to go beyond the end goal of EU membership. Priorities include digital transition, green transformation, increased regional cooperation and the strengthening of democracy and rule of law. Our journey will engage with these overlapping and interlinking themes, promote new and progressive voices, and foster pathways to regional cooperation, resilience and inclusion.

Friends of Europe’s Balkan Journey seeks to circumvent stagnant debates on enlargement in order to focus on moving the region forward in practical terms through political imagination and forward-looking solutions.

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