EU’s new strategy “holds out the prospect that two countries could ‘potentially’ be ready to join the EU by 2025.”
These are Serbia and Montenegro, writes the website Politico, in a piece dedicated to EU’s enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans, unveiled on Tuesday.
The document “also offers increased support for the four other would-be members from the region that was engulfed by war and civil strife in the 1990s,” the article continued.
However, the strategy makes clear to politicians “in all six countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia” that they will “have to get much more serious about establishing the rule of law, cutting out corruption, cracking down on organized crime, settling bilateral disputes and undertaking a range of other democratic changes,” the website said, and quotes the document as stating:
“Joining the EU is far more than a technical process. It is a generational choice, based on fundamental values, which each country must embrace more actively, from their foreign and regional policies right down to what children are taught at school.”
Although Serbia and Montenegro have been identified as front-runners for membership, the strategy says having them join by 2025 is “extremely ambitious,” writes Politico.
It also “makes clear that leaders in Belgrade in particular will have to swallow some bitter pills on the road to Brussels – Serbia will have to conclude and implement a legally binding agreement on normalizing relations with Kosovo before it can join the EU.”
“It also says would-be members must demonstrate ‘full alignment’ with EU foreign policy – a none-too-coded signal that Belgrade could not continue to pursue such close relations with traditional ally Russia as it does at the moment,” the article said, and added:
“But the strategy also contains disappointment for Kosovo, which is not recognized by five EU members and is not specifically mentioned as a possible candidate for EU membership in the document.”
The website also published the results of a poll revealing that enthusiasm for EU membership is greatest in Kosovo – where 90 percent of respondents said it would be “a good thing” – and lowest in (central) Serbia, where this opinion is held by only 26 percent of the population.