Comment 29 Mar 17

Europe Must Play a Key Role in the Balkans

While it is a delusion to expect the EU to solve problems in the Balkans through accelerated enlargement, so is the suggestion that it can be a mere spectator to a deepening crisis which it has enabled.

Bodo Weber and Kurt Bassuener
BIRN
EU flag. Photo:Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

In his opinion piece ‘Europe is not Going to Solve Balkan Dramas’, BIRN editor Marcus Tanner skewers a widely-held delusion that the magic wand of enlargement alone will save the Western Balkan countries from further political instability. This concept was most recently promulgated by none other than European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.  

Keeping in mind the cautionary tales (the status dispute with Cyprus, endemic rule-of-law problems in Romania and Bulgaria), it ought to be clear by now that reform must precede, not follow, membership.

The EU’s leverage and ability to enforce its rules and values evaporates once countries join the club – a point now evident in the cases of former star performers like Hungary and Poland.

The ‘get them in’ argument is not only damaging to reform prospects in the prospective member state; it is also tone-deaf to the political reality within the EU.

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