Brussels (Brussels Morning) EU enlargement in the Balkans is progressing slowly as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to host a summit with representatives of the six countries involved.
The summit is intended to help improve cooperation and speed up the EU enlargement process in the Balkans, Reuters reported on Monday.
While the EU agreed in March last year to start accession negotiations with NATO member Albania, the bloc has yet to set a date for the start of the process because it prefers to start formal talks with Albania and North Macedonia at the same time, whereas Bulgaria is blocking the start of negotiations with North Macedonia.
Similarly, in March 2020, the EU also approved the start of accession talks with North Macedonia. In order to resolve a dispute with EU member Greece, the country changed its name from Macedonia in 2019. However, Bulgaria chose to block the start of accession negotiations over a linguistic dispute, insisting that the Macedonian language is a dialect of Bulgarian.
BiH lags behind
Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for EU membership in 2016, but the bloc still has not approved the application. The EU views BiH as a potential candidate and bloc-led peacekeepers still oversee the country.
As for Kosovo, the EU wants the country to improve its relations with Serbia, from which it declared independence in 2008. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, revived EU-mediated talks between the two countries earlier this year. Five EU member states still do not recognise Kosovo as an independent nation – Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
Montenegro has started accession negotiations with the EU and the European Commission expects the country to join the bloc by the end of the decade.Serbia has also started accession talks. In 2018, the EC predicted that the country could join the EU by 2025, while stressing that the target was ambitious. Serbia is the largest non-EU country in the region and the bloc hopes its influence could help to speed up reforms in neighbouring countries.