German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Photo) mentioned that the six Western Balkan countries are expected to become EU member states in the future. She considers this decision to be of strategic importance, alluding to the influence of China and Russia in the region., writes Cristian Gherasim, correspondent in Bucharest.

“It is in the European Union’s own interest to move the process forward here,” Merkel said at a virtual conference on the future of the Western Balkans.

The conference brought together the heads of government of Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo, as well as the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

In 2003, the Thessaloniki Council summit made the integration of the Western Balkans a priority for EU enlargement. The EU’s relations with the Western Balkan states changed from the political segment “External relations” to the political segment “Enlargement” in 2005.

Serbia officially applied for membership in the European Union on December 22, 2009. Membership negotiations are currently underway. Ideally, Serbia should complete its negotiations by the end of 2024.

For Albania, accession negotiations began in March last year when EU ministers reached a political agreement on opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. So far, Albania has received in EU funds a total of € 1.2 billion in development assistance from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, a funding mechanism for candidate countries to the EU.

The broadest support of any Western Balkan state for EU membership is probably received by Montenegro. Membership negotiations with Montenegro started on June 29, 2012. With all negotiating chapters open, the country’s broad support among officials from EU members could prove invaluable for Montenegro to meet its deadline. 2025 membership.

North Macedonia faces a few more obstacles from its neighbors to become the next EU Member State. North Macedonia faced two separate issues with Greece and Bulgaria. The use of the country name “Macedonia” was the subject of a dispute with neighboring Greece between 1991 and 2019, leading to a Greek veto against the EU and NATO membership talks. Once the issue was resolved, the EU gave its formal approval to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania in March 2020. Bulgaria, meanwhile, effectively blocked the official start in November 2020. negotiations for North Macedonia’s accession to the EU on what it considers slow. progress in the implementation of the 2017 friendship treaty between the two countries, hate speech supported or tolerated by the state and minority claims against Bulgaria.

Even less fortunate on the waiting list for EU membership negotiations is Bosnia herzegovina. An opinion on Bosnia’s candidacy was published by the European Commission in May 2019. It remains a potential candidate country until it can successfully answer all questions in the European Commission questionnaire as well as “ensure the functioning of the parliamentary stabilization and association committee. and develop a national program for the adoption of the EU acquis. Many observers believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina is last in terms of EU integration among the Western Balkan states wishing to join the EU.

Kosovo is recognized by the EU as a potential candidate for membership. The Stabilization and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo was signed on February 26, 2016, but Kosovo is still far on the road to EU membership.

Support for the acceleration of the integration process of the six countries of the Western Balkans is also supported by the President of the European Commission. Von der Leyen said: “Our first priority is to accelerate the enlargement program across the region and to support our partners in the Western Balkans in their work to implement the reforms necessary to move forward on their European path.

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