Yesterday, the European Union leaders hosted a summit with six Balkan counterparts’ aspirants to join the European Union.
The countries we are talking about have always been considered “on the edge of Europe”, marginalised by commonplaces and historical battles. Yet, joining the European Union for these countries might be the first step to reach a “Union” which is now only present in geographical terms.
But which States are we talking about? And what are the terms of the agreement?
ALBANIA: The European Union agreed in March that Albania, already a member of NATO, can formally start membership negotiations. Even if in the process of doing so possibly later in 2020, however, it could still take many years for Albania to officially be part of the EU.
BOSNIA: Torn by war from 1992 to 1995, Bosnia is still overseen by EU-led peacekeepers. It submitted an EU membership application in 2016, which is still pending approval. That means it is not yet a candidate country although it is seen as a very potential one.
KOSOVO: Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, wants to join the EU but is still quite far from being able to do so. It must mend relations with Serbia through EU-mediated talks that are being revived by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. Five EU countries do not recognise Kosovo’s independence: Slovakia, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Romania.
MONTENEGRO: Montenegro, which joined NATO in 2017, is already in negotiations to join the EU and is seen by the European Commission as likely to join the bloc later this decade, along with Serbia.
NORTH MACEDONIA: North Macedonia, like Albania, is an official candidate for EU membership and it too in March won EU governments’ approval to start negotiations. It overcame a decades-long dispute with neighbouring Greece over its name, agreeing to be called the Republic of North Macedonia. It also joined NATO in 2020.
SERBIA: The largest non-EU Balkan country with 7 million people, Serbia is also in the midst of negotiations for membership. It is seen as the lynchpin in the region and the EU hopes Belgrade’s influence in the Balkans could help others reform. In February 2018, the Commission said Serbia could join the EU by 2025, albeit cautioning that was a very ambitious goal.
Hopefully, soon the EU and its leaders will be a “welcoming Union” for these countries too.