How long will countries in the Western Balkans wait for EU membership? In October 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron led a handful of EU Member States in blocking Albania and North Macedonia from starting accession talks. Macron has called for reforms to the accession process.

At the time, then-President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, called the veto a “major historic mistake”. In February 2019, Skopje finally resolved the long-standing name dispute with Athens by renaming the country “North Macedonia”, costing the Prime Minister significant political capital. There is a feeling in the North Macedonian capital that the EU has reneged on its side of the bargain (and snap elections have been called for April 2020 that could see the ruling party booted out of power by an angry electorate).

Some analysts believe the move by the EU leaves the Balkans “wide open” to Russian influence. Balkan politicians who support EU membership now look weak, and the Kremlin has been keen to promote Russian trade and investment (and even defence cooperation) in the region. Other countries, including Turkey, China, and the Gulf States, are also keen to boost their influence in the Western Balkans in the absence of European leadership.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from James, who worries that if the EU delays the accession process it will open up the region to influence from countries such as Russia. Is he right?

To get a response, we spoke to Christian Danielsson, Director General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR) at the European Commission. How would he respond?

For another perspective, we put the same question to Bernard Nikaj, Ambassador of Kosovo to Belgium and Luxembourg, and acting Head of the Kosovo Mission to the European Union and NATO. What would he say?

Finally, we put James’ comment to Velma Šarić, founder and president of the Post-Conflict Research Center (PCRC), a Sarajevo-based non-governmental organisation promoting stronger inter-ethnic relations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. How would she react?

Is the EU losing the Balkans to Russia? If the EU delays Balkan accession, will it lose influence in the region? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – vverve

29 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Catherine Benning

    Is the EU losing the Balkans to Russia?

    What a strange question. How can the EU ‘lose’ one part of the world to another part of the world that belongs only to itself? Surely the choice of any State to choose where they will place their allegiance is based on what is economically best for them and, to a much larger extent than the EU is willing to accept, their cultural comfort zone.

    If the Balkans are preferring the Russian attitude to the EU offering, it is because it suits their natural lifestyle and social expectations more closely. Europe has become a political madhouse. Far removed from the conservative beliefs and comfort of historical social expectation. The EU and globalism followers are intent on cultural destruction. All the usual, or, practical beliefs of Western civilisation are coming to an end. With the additional take over of what is seen by the majority, as a deviant move into unacceptable practices heralded as ‘normal,’ when quite clearly, to the society being invaded, it is anything but acceptable.

    Therefore, if the Balkans appear to be leaning toward a more stable allegiance with Russia, it is because Russia appears to be less crazed by political hysteria than the EU. They appear comfortably conformists in a world hell bent on chaotic divergence. To the point where this morning on our ITV British GMB programme they were seriously suggesting we should remove, by ‘banning’ of some or all of the old adage lines, like, ‘its not over til the fat lady sings,’ or ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ and so on. The reason said to be, speaking these things is that some immigrant people may be offended by them as they may feel they are being ridiculed at being fat or cooks, as this form of wording is similar in content to ‘racism.’

    The foreign invasion into our social structure and the abuse of our culture has become intolerable in the UK. It is astounding in content. Yet ignored by our political leadership. And the EU is fearing the Balkans preferring to align with Russia. I wonder why that would be?

  2. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    How can you (the EU) lose something which you never possessed in the first place? It’s hallucinations and side effects of an age-old but contagious enlargement fever.

    Could it be blind EU arrogance or Brussels’ unrealistic expectations? Russia or China can’t be “ordered” around with EU legal directives- or face the Commissioner of all Commissioners wrath!

    Probably, our present “EU concept” will not only “lose” to Russia, but China as well. The EU concept remains too rigid and unfit to compete with the “Middle Kingdoms giant panda” or the Great Russian Bear. Neither the Bear nor the Panda will wait for a formal invitation!

    “Jean-Claude Juncker called the veto a “major historic mistake”. This EU “Oberkommissar” demonstrated once more his favor for despotism & hypocrisy.

    Can dwarf nation dictators be winners?

    • avatar

      Catherine has a wise voice on this one in my opinion.

    • avatar

      Losing these countrie’s a big misstake??
      What is the contribution from those corrupt coutrie’s to the european union in the future?
      I can tell you: Many,many criminals who have free movements in our poart of europe.
      And in the past is allready proven that all thos expensive cars who have been stolen,the majority was found in Albania.
      And if Albania is accepted,then the free passage of stolen cars will increase..!

  3. avatar

    It has definitely lost Serbia by allowing Russia to set up shop in Belgrade and encourage Serbian nationalism.

    • avatar

      So what. If these countries can’t see the value of being EU and waiting, or “partnering with russia” that’s on them. Russsia is a bloated pig. A country with less of a GDP than ITALY. Russia is OVERSOLD, because god knows, you have to keep people fearful, and on their side, where ever that may be. Nothing does that better than a PRETEND dangerous nemesis.

  4. avatar

    Europe will still letting this for another cold war, otherwise if not before as well as the globalustas will rise, and put all these magnificent environmental protection prohetos, planting coves on balconies!.

  5. avatar

    Is this a serious question?

  6. avatar

    EU has only lost their collective EC-mind.

  7. avatar

    Pity, don’t understand Macron and his political views, unbelievable

  8. avatar

    The EU never had the Balkans. You cannot loose what you do not have.

  9. avatar

    The Balkans aren’t ours to loose in the first place.

  10. avatar

    why, we are in war with Russia?

    • avatar

      Nope. This is a provocation from anti-Russian interests to increase animosity between the two powers by fear mongering. “do something about Russia or they gonna take the Balkans!”

    • avatar

      NATO look like a gang of idiots
      Delete, hide or report this

    • avatar

      And that is why I support an EU army, that way we can act fully independent and not have to jump in the same boat with the Americans every time they pick beef with other countries. The only reason Russia is even looking at the Balkans is because their commerce with the EU is suffering due to American imposed sanctions and the Balkans are an alternative market.

    • avatar

      Balkan must stop spending in army and weapons and invest in people infostructure and development

  11. avatar

    Maybe …because E.U. thinks only for profits and is governed by a greedy commission directed by lobbies

  12. avatar

    Maybe to the US, but not to Russia. Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania are the closest US ally in Europe. Serbia will follow soon.

    • avatar

      The US has no allies. Anyone who trusts that administration is setting themselves up for disappointment.

    • avatar

      Les États-Unis n’ont jamais eu besoin d’un allié en guerre. Si demain il aura un mouvement important vers l’UE (NATO et déjà là), après-demain les serbes et les russes ouvrent u.e nouvelle guerre de type comme dans l’est de l’Ukraine.
      Mieux vaut une paix que les guerres interminables!

  13. avatar
    Maia Alexandrova

    If you promise something, but do not keep your promise, you will not be trusted any more. This is what has happened. The cheated Balkan nations are fully justified in finding more reliable economic partners somewhere else. Why should they keep on waiting for a lying EU to accept them? Can anyone say how long this will take? It will be only waiting in vain. The Balkan countries want to progress, not to wait forever for empty promises to be fulfilled. When one door is closed, another one opens. It is common sense. Which country will be such a fool to choose to become a hostage of Macron’s whims and continue waiting indefinitely for EU membership, if other opportunities are available? Every country has the right to build its prosperity through beneficial economic partnerships. EU has lost the trust of those Balkan nations.

  14. avatar

    Why do we need the countries of Balkan? There are countries that are much closer to our understanding of the world: The countries of Mercosur are suffering similar problems.

  15. avatar

    Russia is Bulgaria’s biggest brother. The Russians are our saviors and liberators. The Russian economy is strong and Russia is a very rich country in resources.

    Russia wanted to make Bulgaria a dominant power on the Balkans. They invested a lot in Bulgaria. Hopefully we will create our second nuclear power plant with Russian help.

    One of the largest banks in Russia called “Sber” might come in Bulgaria.

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