Moment of Truth for EU Balkan Policy

14 December 2005

Dear Friends of ESI,

The European Council on 16 December in Brussels will be the moment of truth for EU Balkan policy. At this moment it appears that the EU is going to commit a potentially disastrous policy error.

France has declared that it is prepared to veto the approval of Macedonia's candidate status, recommended last month by the European Commission. Instead, it has proposed a new debate as to whether there should be any further EU enlargement at all.

The United Kingdom has proposed a new budget for the EU that would preclude any serious pre-accession assistance for the Western Balkans for the next 7-year budgetary period. The UK proposal could shut the door on further enlargement just as forcefully as a French veto.

Between France and the UK, there is now a distinct possibility that the European Council meeting beginning this Friday (16th December) will not just deny candidate status to Macedonia, but throw the entire European strategy in the Balkans into confusion.

ESI is calling on EU member states not to forget their commitments to the countries of the Balkans, and their vital interest in lasting stability in the region on the eve of Kosovo status negotiations.

At the EU summit this weekend, member states should take the following steps:

  1. They should send a clear signal to the Western Balkans that the promise of Europeanisation is real, by extending candidate status to Macedonia as was recommended by the European Commission. They should confirm that the membership criteria remain the same, and that countries will be treated fairly and objectively according to their progress in undertaking the required reforms.
  2. They should ensure that the foreign policy component of the forthcoming EU budget contains sufficient resources to extend pre-accession assistance to all of the states of the Western Balkans before 2013. To deny this assistance to the region for another seven years would risk throwing away the vast European investment in the Balkans over the past decade

Gerald Knaus