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EU enlargement in the Western Balkans: Expectations and obstacles

EU enlargement in the Western Balkans: Expectations and obstacles

EU enlargement policy when it comes to the Western Balkans was the main topic of conversation at a debate organised by Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) in Athens.

The new Montenegro government's committment to align with EU standards makes it the most likely next addition to the bloc.

To begin accession negotiations, candidate countries must first implement reforms corresponding to chapters of the EU "acquis" - a collection of common rights and obligations that constitute the body of EU law, incorporated into the legal systems of EU Member States.

There are currently 35 chapters in the EU acquis - Montenegro has opened 33 of these for review, but has only closed three.

But the country's new government has fresh energy, and is committed to European integration, Minister of European Affairs, Maida Gorsevic, told Euronews.

"In the first 100 days of the government we have shown that we had an open dialogue, not only with the political majority but also with the opposition regarding the European course," said Gorsevic. "So this is something that encourages us in this way, this is an opportunity that we take advantage of as well as the encouraging messages that we receive from Brussels, the European Commission and all our European partners."

Despite the progress made by some Western Balkan countries, such as North Macedonia and Albania, challenges remain, including unresolved issues such as the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and the need for structural reforms.

Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister Besnik , charged with European integration, told Euronews his country faced more obstacles than others, which made the face to EU accession difficult.

"We are still struggling with recognition by five EU members. and we are still in the dialogue process. But we have little control over the outcome of this process ," Bislimi said.

While there is support for enlargement from European politicians, with initiatives such as the New Development Plan for the Western Balkans, questions remain about the direction of the process.

"If we prolong it and prolong it indefinitely into the future, then we will end up with the same realities that we have today, that is, with the Western Balkans region outside the European Union, and I am not sure whether in the long term the EU, not only the Western Balkans, but the EU can withstand this," said Slovenia's Deputy Minister of European Affairs, Marko Stučin.

The European Commission has recommended the start of EU accession talks with Bosnia and Herzegovina, eight years after the Western Balkan country applied to join the bloc. The green light for accession talks is likely to come in this week's EU Summit.