EU woos Western Balkans but is coy on membership

By Ivana Sekularac and Gabriela Baczynska SOFIA (Reuters) - The European Union offered six Western Balkan countries closer ties on Thursday but said they could count on no fast-track to membership - as much because of their regional problems, as well as due to the bloc's own fatigue. EU leaders met their counterparts from the six - Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo - at a summit, agreeing to build more energy links and work more closely on issues from countering radicalism to controlling migration.

Reuters May 18, 2018 00:07:29 IST
EU woos Western Balkans but is coy on membership

EU woos Western Balkans but is coy on membership

By Ivana Sekularac and Gabriela Baczynska

SOFIA (Reuters) - The European Union offered six Western Balkan countries closer ties on Thursday but said they could count on no fast-track to membership - as much because of their regional problems, as well as due to the bloc's own fatigue.

EU leaders met their counterparts from the six - Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo - at a summit, agreeing to build more energy links and work more closely on issues from countering radicalism to controlling migration.

"Today we reaffirmed our mutual commitment to the European perspective for the whole region," EU chairman Donald Tusk told a news conference in the Bulgarian capital. "We didn't pretend today that everything is clear and simple."

"I have no doubts that we will also witness in the future many problems," he said, adding that the EU was offering no "unrealistic" fast-track to take the six in.

Tusk was speaking after the first such meeting in 15 years that was meant to demonstrate the bloc's renewed commitment to a region that remains fragile two decades after the ethnic wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia.

But, highlighting how long and hard their road to membership is likely to be, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of EU member Spain stayed away from the talks since Madrid refuses to recognise the independence of Kosovo.

After years of neglecting the region, the EU has been spurred into action by the growing influence of other powers there, including Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.

The region in 2015-16 also became a main route for a wave of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa heading to wealthier European nations to the north.

With Britain preparing to leave, the bloc's executive European Commission has proposed that EU leaders decide next month to open formal membership negotiations with Albania and Macedonia.

"It is clear that all these countries have a clear accession perspective to the EU," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is a strong supporter of bringing the Western Balkans in. Even she, however, refused to discuss dates.

Many in the EU fear importing Western Balkan problems and feuds, especially at a time when the bloc is still recovering from economic and migration crises that have fuelled euro-scepticism among its own voters.

The shocks of the last decade also made some EU founders question eastern expansion and Western Balkans sceptics point to problems in the region ranging from organised crime in Albania to Macedonia's name dispute with EU state Greece.

"What really matters is the determination of applicants in implementing reforms. And patience because also on the EU side you need to have the right window of opportunity to take the decision," said a senior EU official.

(Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, Andreas Rinke and Angel Krasimirov; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

Goods train runs over two persons crossing railway line in Mathura
India

Goods train runs over two persons crossing railway line in Mathura

Both were trying to free their motorcycle from the rail track when the accident occured, SP (City) Martand Prakash Singh said

Cryptocurrency prices tumble and exchange trading falters as snags crop up
News & Analysis

Cryptocurrency prices tumble and exchange trading falters as snags crop up

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The price of cryptocurrencies plunged and crypto trading was delayed on Tuesday, a day in which El Salvador ran into snags as the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. Shares of blockchain-related firms also fell as crypto stocks were hit by trading platform outages. But the major focus was on El Salvador, where the government had to temporarily unplug a digital wallet to cope with demand.

Ford poaches Apple's car project chief Doug Field
News & Analysis

Ford poaches Apple's car project chief Doug Field

By Joseph White and Sanjana Shivdas (Reuters) -The head of Apple Inc's car project, Doug Field, is going to work for Ford Motor Co to lead the automaker's advanced technology and embedded systems efforts, a hiring coup for Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley.