The dream of "joining the alliance" of the Western Balkans is hard to come true

2021-10-14: [Article Link]. Recently, the summit of leaders of the European Union and Western Balkan countries, focusing on the issue of "accession", was held at Burdo Castle near Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Once again, the countries concerned were greatly disappointed that the EU leaders "paid lip service" and the summit failed to make any substantial progress. The EU leaders have made a very positive statement. On the eve of the summit, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Expansion, Valhli, also reiterated his ambition when he took office in 2019 on the eve of the summit, that is, "at least one Western Balkan country must become a member of the European Union during the term of office". European Commission President von der Lane also stressed during the summit that "the Western Balkans and the EU belong to the same Europe. Without them, the EU is incomplete. My Committee will do its best to move this process forward ". However, the vision portrayed by the EU seems to be a distant one. The accession process of the Western Balkan countries such as Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Montenegro is currently at different stages. In 2018, the then EU leaders proposed that all Western Balkan countries would be accepted by 2025 at the latest. However, three years later, the EU no longer mentions the plan. In order to restore the situation, Slovenia, the current EU presidency, proposed a new plan at the summit, setting the timetable for accepting countries in the Western Balkans before 2030. This idea received little attention from other EU Member States, and ultimately failed to be written into the summit communique. The EU's posture of "encouraging" without "commitment" obviously makes the Western Balkan countries feel no sincerity. After the summit, North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zayev said that "the people of the Western Balkans will be very disappointed, which will cause huge losses to the European concept of unity and cooperation". Albanian Prime Minister Eddie Rama told the media: "We have learned not to expect anything." Rama also pointed out: "This is not a good moment for Europe. There are many problems within Europe and there is no enthusiasm for expanding matters." In fact, after Croatia became the most recent country to join the EU in 2013, the EU's willingness to absorb new members has weakened significantly. Some analysts believe that the EU has been busy dealing with Britain's "Brexit" negotiations in recent years, and it is difficult to get out of the process of joining the Western Balkans. There are also different views within the EU on the absorption of new Member States. In October 2019, French President Macron strongly opposed the start of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia at the EU summit. Macron claimed that the EU's accession mechanism was outdated and needed further reform, and suggested delaying the entry process of these Southeast European countries into Europe. This proposal has been endorsed by a number of other member States. In addition, due to the outstanding historical and cultural disputes between the two countries, Bulgaria, a member of the European Union, resolutely obstructed EU institutions from starting accession negotiations with North Macedonia. What makes the prospect of joining the Western Balkans even more bleak is that it is difficult for Europe to have a political leader with determination and courage to promote integration. In mid-September, the outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Serbia and Albania. Merkel, who made every effort to promote the process of European integration in the Balkans during his 16 years in power, also appeared helpless in this "farewell trip. According to media reports, what makes the Western Balkan countries feel painful is that the "end of the Merkel era" means that they have lost an important coordinator, and it also means that the Western Balkan countries are drifting away on the road to joining the alliance. (Cai Chun)

Note: This is auto-translated version of a Chinese domestic news media article. A mature and nuanced reading is suggested.