European Union officials told the Bled Strategic Forum that the Union won’t be complete without the Western Balkans but voiced concern over Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s claim that the population of the region is losing its enthusiasm to join the EU.
Vucic told the Forum that official Belgrade is committed to joining the EU but that the enthusiasm for EU membership has dropped in the countries of the Western Balkans which is why they are looking for new ways to achieve progress. He said that one of those ways is the Open Balkans initiative which he launched with the Prime Ministers of North Macedonia and Albania, Zoran Zaev and Edi Rama. We are working with our neighbors to build peace and security in the region. Only a united Europe can respond to new crises and we should all be part of that Europe, he added.
According to Vucic, Serbia can’t become part of the EU unless it resolves its relations with Pristina. “The important thing is for Europe to show that it is still attractive,” he said.
Vucic’s statement about the lack of enthusiasm to join the EU met with concern voiced by European Parliament David Sassoli, adding that the countries of the Western Balkans have been waiting for changes that are not coming. The EU expansion process needs to be changed in a pragmatic way with deadlines. According to him, the Western Balkans are part of the history of the EU and shares a common identity with its member states. Sassoli said only the EU’s rivals benefit if the Union delays its expansion to the region and added that new energy has to be invested in the process.
European Council President Charles Michel said that the future of the EU is unimaginable without the countries of the Western Balkans, adding that the EU is a dynamic union, not static. The Western Balkans is important to the EU as much as the EU is important to the region and we can build a European future for a better world together, he said.